Women's breasts come in all shapes and sizes. There is no perfect shape or size for breasts. Normal breasts can be large or small, smooth or lumpy, and light or dark. Most young women have a lot of questions about their breasts. The inside of your breasts is made up of fatty tissue and many milk-producing glands, called mammary glands. The dark area of your breast around your nipple is called the areola. As your body starts to develop, a small bump grows under the areola and nipple. This bump is called the breast bud. As the buds get larger and rounder, the breasts grow. Areola and nipples can range in color from light pink to purplish to light gray depending on your skin color.
Breast changes are common. From the time a girl begins to develop breasts and begins menstruating and throughout life, women may experience various kinds of breast pain and other breast changes. Some of these changes normally occur during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, and with aging. Breast lumps, tenderness, and other changes may occur. Most breast lumps and other changes are not cancer.
The milk-carrying ducts extend from the nipple into the underlying breast tissue like the spokes of a wheel. Under the areola are lactiferous ducts. These fill with milk during lactation after a woman has a baby. When a girl reaches puberty, changing levels of hormones cause the ducts to grow and cause fat deposits in the breast tissue to increase. The mammary glands that are connected to the surface of the breast by the lactiferous ducts may extend to the armpit area (axilla). There are no muscles in the breasts, but muscles lie under each breast and cover the ribs. These normal structures inside the breasts can sometimes make them feel lumpy. Such lumpiness may be especially noticeable in women who are thin or who have small breasts.
Many possible causes exist for pain or tenderness in one of your breasts or in both breasts. Most often the pain can be attributed to harmless causes such as puberty or pregnancy. It can also be a recurrent problem for women with cyclical pain associated with the menstrual cycle. Although cancer is a major concern for most women, it is rarely the cause of isolated breast pain. During a breast self-exam, you may notice lumps or a change in texture. Knowing the difference between harmless and harmful breast lumps is important to your health.
There are three kinds of benign breast lumps:
This is a harmless (benign) fluid - filled sac of tissue. It can grow right within the breast tissue. This breast lump will feel smooth and squishy. If you are pressing on a cyst, it will have some give to it, like a water balloon. A cyst can move around and can change in size during your menstrual. Breast cysts can be located near the surface, or deeper inside, close to your chest wall. If the cyst is closer to the surface, it is easy to find and easy to distinguish from other lumps. But if it is deeper inside, it's more difficult to distinguish it from other kinds of breast lumps, because when you press on it, you're actually trying to work through layers of breast tissue, which may be dense and firm. Your doctor can help you determine that a lump is a harmless cyst, by doing a fine needle aspiration with a syringe. This procedure removes the fluid from inside the cyst, which deflates and most likely will not return. Commonly appears in women who are in their 30's, 40's and 50's. They are most often found in women who are nearing menopause.
This is a benign group of cells that support other kinds of cells in your breast. These are made of fibrous and glandular tissues. This will feel like a round breast lump, and can be hard or firm. It can be moved around during a breast self-exam. These can be located near the surface of the breast and are easily felt. A fibro adenoma can be removed, if needed, with a lumpectomy, a laser ablation, or cryoblation. If there is some doubt about the fibro adenoma, it can biopsied; to make sure that it is harmless.
These are benign, and may be scar tissue, hardened silicone, necrotic (dead) fat, or a rib bone pressing into breast tissue and compressing it. This kind of breast lump can feel quite hard and usually doesn't change shape or size during a menstrual cycle. It may or may not be movable, depending on what it is actually composed of. Psudolumps can be located near the surface, or deeper inside the breast, close to the chest wall. To be sure that a pseudolump is harmless, get a mammogram and ultrasound, and if those are not clear, have a needle biopsy done, so that a tissue sample can be analyzed by a pathologist. If it is bothersome, you can have it surgically removed.