Most people are familiar with some of the symptoms associated with menopause: hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain, etc. Sadly, the list is a long one, but we are much more educated these days, so living with the symptoms is not as difficult as it once was. There are supplements, medications, diets and lifestyle overhauls that can have a significant impact on how we are affected by, and cope with, the menopause.
But what about the less common side effects? How do you know if your symptoms are related to the menopause, and what can you do about them? How does menopause affect your breasts, for example?
How do your breasts change over your lifetime?
Women are no strangers to fluctuations in hormones and all the side effects that come with them. From the onset of puberty to the menstrual cycle; pregnancy to weight gain, a woman’s body is subject to changes that are largely out of their control.
One of the areas that is often affected is the breasts. Due to hormonal changes every month, women’s breasts may change in shape, size and how they feel. Women become used to these changes and know what to expect, so anything out of the ordinary may warrant further investigation. So, what about changes to our breasts as we age? Does menopause affect your breasts? For many women the answer is, ‘yes.’ But not everyone will have the same experience of menopause. The symptoms are many and varied, and it’s important that you remain in tune with your own body in order to recognise what is a side effect of menopause and what might be something else.
During the perimenopause phase many women report changes in the shape and size of their breasts. They may also feel more achy than usual, and you might notice more lumps have appeared. The key here is to ‘know your body.’ You will have a good idea of how your breasts look and feel, and with regular checking you will keep on top of any unusual changes. Due to your monthly cycle becoming less regular, you might recognise a different pattern in how your breasts change over the month. Changes in shape, size and feel may appear out of the blue, but this is to be expected at this stage of your life.
Types of changes in your breast
So, in how many ways does menopause affect your breasts? In short, there are three main categories that these changes fall into. Let’s take a closer look.
You will probably be used to dealing with tender or painful breasts, thanks to the monthly cycle and all that it brings! A buildup of fluid can render the breasts swollen and tender, even painful. This can make high impact exercise uncomfortable; it can mean that you have to alter your sleeping position, and it could mean changes to your wardrobe, too.
Secondly, you may notice visible changes to the shape and size of your breasts as you enter the menopause phase. During this stage of a woman’s life the oestrogen levels begin to drop. Amongst other things, one of the side effects of these changes is that the glandular tissue in the breasts begins to shrink. The result of these changes on the breast means they may become less dense and more fatty. There is also the possibility that they will start to sag. This gives the appearance that they are less full, and their size may be affected too. This can be distressing for some women, any change in appearance that is less favourable can really affect self confidence. We will have a look at how to address these issues shortly.
Finally, the third most noted change to the breast’s during menopause is how they feel to the touch. Checking your breasts has become relatively routine of late. Women are encouraged to get to know how their breasts feel to the touch at different points in their cycle. During the menopause there is the possibility of women developing cysts in their breasts, and these are felt as lumps to the touch. Cysts are quite common before, during and after the menopause phase. They are simply fluid filled sacs and are not cause for concern. They may disappear after the menopause, or they may remain, particularly if you are participating in a hormone replacement treatment (HRT) programme.
How can I deal with changes to my breasts during menopause?
How does menopause affect your breasts? We’ve looked at the three main changes, now let’s see what you can do to make life a little easier during this time.
If you’re experiencing tender or painful breasts, it is imperative that you support them as much as possible. In fact, 85% of women reported that simply wearing the correct bra had a significant impact on how comfortable their breasts felt. You should also take time to stretch your back muscles so that bad posture isn’t contributing to the discomfort. Finally, there are creams and medications available if the pain becomes too intense.
If the visible changes to your breasts are a concern, you can work to support and tone the muscle under the breast area. This will give them a better profile and the shape and size will be enhanced. Push ups and light weights are a good place to start. If you are looking for a more permanent solution, then perhaps breast augmentation of some kind is what you need. Enhance Medical Group are experts in this field, and they would be delighted to offer you help and advice on this issue.
Last of all, if lumpy breasts are your issue, then many women find that cutting out caffeine really helps. Failing that, applying heat or taking pain killers should ease the discomfort.
When you’re faced with the issues of menopause, and you’re asking, ‘How does menopause affect your breasts?’ then there is a lot of information to be found. The trick is to try different things until you find what works for you. Your menopause journey will not be identical to someone else’s, so take time to tailor your care to what you are experiencing. Don’t forget that most changes to your breasts are likely to be nothing to be concerned about but a quick check with your doctor is always advisable just to make sure.