Like the rest of our body, our breasts might look and feel different as we age. What can you expect as normal, and what changes should you be concerned about? We asked El Camino Hospital’s breast imaging specialist, Dr. Silaja Yitta.
Here’s her advice for living with some of the breast changes that come with age and knowing when to turn to your doctor.
Expect some sagging.
Yes, push-ups and other exercises can strengthen ligaments and muscles near your breasts, and a good bra can give you a lift while you’re wearing it. But nothing short of surgery can fight gravity and keep your breasts from drooping a bit as you age. In fact, there’s even a special name for it: ptosis.
No matter what you call it, it’s a fact of life that the connective tissue in your breasts breaks down as you age. Hormonal changes can cause your breasts to lose some fullness and firmness. Your skin loses elasticity, so you might notice loose skin. Gaining and then losing weight — such as with pregnancy — can make these changes happen faster, as can smoking and sunbathing.
You might see stretch marks.
As with sagging, stretch marks can happen with weight gain and loss or pregnancy. Lotions and prescription treatments can help improve their appearance, but stretch marks aren’t harmful.
Watch for lumps, sore spots and changes in density, but don’t panic.
Your breasts might become more fibrocystic (lumpy) as you near menopause, and less so after menopause finally arrives. This is normal, but it’s true that it’s harder to detect new lumps or changes in fibrocystic breasts. That’s one reason mammograms are important.
Just remember, if you notice a lump, a sore spot or anything else that concerns you, stay calm and see your doctor. Most such lumps are nothing serious. And most abnormal mammograms turn out to be noncancerous as well, but it’s important to follow up to be sure.
Watch for other changes in how your breasts look and feel.
Get them checked to rule out serious conditions. Especially look out for:
- Skin changes, such as redness or rashes
- Dimpling in the skin or inverted nipples, also called retraction
- Nipple changes or nipple discharge
- New lumps or lumps that get bigger