How Breasts Change Over Time

Oct 20, 2021 | Women's Health

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Your breasts are a complex system of glands and ducts, which also includes your nipple. Underneath each breast is muscle, as well as fibrous tissue that separates it from your ribs.

Breasts are rarely equal in size. In fact, one breast is usually about one fifth larger than the other. All breasts undergo a series of normal changes throughout life. 


During pregnancy levels of progesterone and estrogen cause several changes in the breast, all designed to prepare the breast for lactation and breastfeeding. Areolas become darker, and the breast increases in size and may be sore and tender. 

Middle Age: 

Most women develop some kind of breast condition later in life. Most of these changes are benign, but some may be malignant (breast cancer). The most common type of benign breast condition is fibrocystic change. Fibrocystic changes most often occur in women of childbearing age but can develop at any age. Just prior to the beginning of the menstrual cycle, cysts can get larger and cause pain. 

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare professional right away to determine the cause: lumpiness, tenderness, pain or nipple discharge. Breast calcifications, small calcium deposits that develop in a woman’s breast tissue, are another condition that may occur. They are very common and are usually noncancerous. In some instances, certain types of breast calcifications may suggest early breast cancer. Other common benign breast conditions that should be attended to are benign tumors and breast inflammation. 


During menopause, lower hormone levels cause the breasts to have less glandular, more fatty tissue, and for the connective breast tissue to become dehydrated and less supple. These changes can make the breast lose its once-rounded shape and hang low or sag. 

Other common breast conditions are intraductal papilloma (wartlike growth inside the nipple) and mammary duct ectasia (swollen, clogged milk duct beneath the nipple); Both of these conditions can happen at any age. 

via American Cancer Society 

Mammogram Guidelines from

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so. 
  • Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. 
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screening. 
  • All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. 

Early detection is key to fighting breast cancer. Learn more about our breast health and imaging services across our health system.

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