arrow-small-left Created with Sketch. arrow-small-right Created with Sketch. Carat Left arrow Created with Sketch. check Created with Sketch. circle carat down circle-down Created with Sketch. circle-up Created with Sketch. clock Created with Sketch. difficulty Created with Sketch. download Created with Sketch. email email Created with Sketch. facebook logo-facebook Created with Sketch. logo-instagram Created with Sketch. logo-linkedin Created with Sketch. linkround Created with Sketch. minus plus preptime Created with Sketch. print Created with Sketch. Created with Sketch. logo-soundcloud Created with Sketch. twitter logo-twitter Created with Sketch. logo-youtube Created with Sketch.

About your breasts

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes and will change from adolescence to menopause.

Knowing what is normal and when to see your doctor if you are worried about changes to your breasts is covered here.

Topics on this page

The primary function of breasts is to produce milk following the birth of a baby (lactation). Each breast is made up of 15-20 lobes. These contain the milk-producing glands and ducts along which the milk travels to the nipple. Fat and fibrous tissue surround these structures and give the breasts their individual size and shape. The breasts also contain blood vessels, lymph glands and nerves. It is normal for one breast to be slightly larger than the other. The size of the breast does not determine how much milk it will produce.

Normal breast changes during life

From adolescence to menopause, breast tissue is affected by the hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and lactation. Breast tissue can become more tender and lumpy just prior to a menstrual period, and less tender and lumpy after a period.

It is normal and quite common for breasts to be lumpy or have benign (non-cancerous) nodules.

During the perimenopausal years, when women transition from regular periods to their final period (menopause), women often experience increased breast discomfort because of a change in hormone levels that affects breast tissue.

After menopause, the glandular tissue of the breast is largely replaced by fatty tissue.

Breast structure

When to see your doctor

It is important to know your own breasts so you can tell if any changes occur.

You should see your doctor about:

  • new lumps
  • new lumpiness
  • changes in the shape of your breast
  • changes in the colour of your breast
  • changes in the nipple
  • discharge from the nipple
  • puckering or dimpling of breast skin
  • any persistent breast pain
  • any persistent nipple or breast itching or rash.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at October 2018.

Last updated: 04 December 2019 | Last reviewed: 30 October 2018

Was this helpful?

Thank you for your feedback

Related Topics