You may have many changes in your breasts as a teen and young adult. Some changes are linked to your menstrual cycle. Others may be linked to birth control pills, or to other hormonal forms of birth control. In some cases, breast changes may happen at any time for no clear reason. Most breast conditions are not cancer. These are called noncancer, or benign conditions. It is important for you to know about changes that may occur in your breast health. This will help you to find any problems. Some of the breast conditions you may have include cyclical breast pain, cysts, fibroadenomas, and fibrocystic breast changes. Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and may order an ultrasound of the breasts in order to make a diagnosis. You may not need treatment for these conditions, but your provider may advise taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort. Surgery may be a choice for large cysts or fibroadenomas.
The most common type of breast pain is linked to your menstrual cycle. This is called cyclical breast pain. It is nearly always hormonal. You may have pain around the time that you ovulate. This pain may last until your menstrual cycle starts. The pain may be very minor or so uncomfortable that you can't wear tight-fitting clothes or have close contact of any kind. The pain may be felt in only one breast. Or it may be spread over the whole underarm area.
It may be helpful for you to chart your breast pain. This will help you see if your pain is cyclical or not. After a few months, you will be able to see if there is any link between your menstrual cycle and your breast pain.
Hormones would likely affect both breasts equally. But cyclical breast pain is often more severe in one breast than the other. For this reason, hormones may not be the only cause. Many health experts believe that the pain is due to both hormonal activity and something in the breast that responds to this activity. More research is needed.
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops in the breast tissue. Cysts often get bigger and become sore and painful just before your menstrual cycle. They may seem to appear overnight. They are the most common reason for breast lumps in teens. In most cases, cysts are benign. It is rare that they are cancer. They may be caused by a blocked breast gland.
Cysts can feel either soft or hard. A cyst that is close to the surface of your breast can feel like a large blister. It may be smooth on the outside, but fluid-filled on the inside. When a cyst is deep in your breast tissue, it will feel like a hard lump. This is because it is covered with tissue.
Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth, firm, benign lumps. They are most often found in women in their late teens and early twenties. But they can occur in women of any age. They are the second most common type of benign lump in women.
Fibroadenomas occur twice as often in African-American women as in other women. The painless lump feels rubbery and moves around freely. It very often is found by the woman herself. These lumps vary in size. They can grow anywhere in your breast tissue.
In some cases, with very young women, the fibroadenoma is not removed. But these lumps may grow larger with pregnancy and breastfeeding. For this reason, your healthcare provider may recommend having surgery to remove a fibroadenoma.
Fibrocystic breast changes are symptoms you may feel in your breasts right before your menstrual cycle. Your breasts may feel lumpy, swollen, or sore. This is a very common condition. It is not a disease, and it is not cancer. Changes in hormone levels during your menstrual cycle affect your breasts. Your healthcare provider can rule out problems and help ease your symptoms.
Women with lumpy breasts may have other benign breast conditions.
Breast lumpiness may make it harder to tell if you have actual lumps. Breast self-awareness is key to caring for your breasts. If you have lumpy breasts, it is important to learn what your breasts normally look and feel like. This will help you find any breast changes more easily. If you notice any unusual changes, report them to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.