Healthy Changes Through Life:
Doing a monthly breast self exam is the best way to stay familiar with the cyclical changes in your breasts. You will get to know the territory better than your health care team, and will spot changes easily. Having an annual clinical breast exam helps document your breast health, so keep a regular appointment set up for that! Between puberty and menopause, your breasts will go through many changes, which are affected by hormones, diet, and exercise. Most of these changes are natural and healthy!
Teen Years (Puberty):
In the teen years, with the start of your monthly cycle, your body enters the maturing process, and you gain curves and may notice skin changes (such as acne) and even hair may change color or texture. Breast tissue is developing during this time too, and may be dense and firm to begin with, especially if you are small-breasted.
At this stage, its not too early to know your family health history, so ask your female relatives (mother, aunts, grandmother) if they had any fibrocystic problems with their breasts, or any regular cysts. If so, it is likely that you may experience those too. Not to worry cysts are benign but you want to know where they are, and if they come and go, so they can be distinguished from other features in your breasts.
More Curves and Kids (Childbearing Years):
After your body is prepared for motherhood, if you conceive and bear children, and also if you breastfeed the children, that will bring on more changes in your breasts, as well as in the rest of your body. Breasts may become larger and more tender during pregnancy, and may need more support. Dont neglect your BSE during this time, stay familiar with the changes. Remember that pregnancy and breastfeeding will help combine to lower your risk of breast cancer.
Menopause also brings changes in your breasts, as your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, your breast tissue may become less firm and may drape differently than during your teen and child-bearing years. Keep up with your breast self exams in these years too, so that the normal changes are familiar to you. Less dense breast tissue will seem to have more lumps and bumps, but remember that 90% of breast lumps are benign.
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