Normal Breast Changes

It's normal for your breasts to go through changes based on your age, diet, and hormone levels.

You may experience some breast swelling and tenderness around your menstrual periods. That's because your hormonal levels are shifting as your body prepares for a possible pregnancy. During this time, you may notice that your breasts feel denser or rougher, and you may even feel lumps. These symptoms usually subside during or after your period.

Similar symptoms may arise at other times in your life, such as early in a pregnancy, when you're on birth control medication or hormone therapy, or during perimenopause, the phase when your body starts preparing for menopause.

To help reduce mild premenstrual breast pain and swelling, eat a low-fat diet and cut back on caffeine and salt for a week or two before your period. Exercise regularly and, if needed, use over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve discomfort.

If your symptoms are more severe, talk with your doctor about other options — including birth control pills, vitamins, diuretics, or prescription medication — that may help you manage your symptoms.

In addition to cyclical pain or tenderness due to various hormonal fluctuations during your lifetime, your breasts may change in shape or size due to weight gain or loss, pregnancy, or menopause. Following menopause, for example, lower hormone and elastin levels cause the breasts to become dehydrated and less supple.

The best way to keep your breasts healthy is to be aware of what's normal for you, get recommended screenings, and see your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.