Women’s breasts change at different points in their lives. Although you should always carefully monitor the changes in your breasts, this is particularly important later in life due to the increased risk of breast cancer. However, with that said, once women reach the age of 40, it is perfectly normal for their breasts to fluctuate in size, shape and firmness, and small lumps can often develop, which are usually harmless. To ensure you know what’s normal and what’s not, we’ve put together a short guide to breast care to help you identify any abnormal changes:
Most older women experience some change in their breasts as a result of hormones. After menopause, once the levels of oestrogen in your body have dropped, breast tissue becomes fattier and less glandular. Not only can this increase in fat reduce the firmness of your breasts but it can also lessen their fullness, making them feel a little flatter.
During this period, it is also common for the gap between your breasts to increase in line with them growing smaller or bigger depending on whether you have lost or gained weight. You may also notice that your nipples have become less pronounced and that the areola (the pink area around the nipple) has become smaller or faded.
Finally, as you age, you may find the odd lump or bump in or around your breasts. Before the menopause, you may have experienced premenstrual lumps, so your body may just be more prone to these little abnormalities. However, although many of these often turn out to be harmless, it is always best to go and have them checked by a healthcare professional, as they can be a symptom of breast cancer.
As discussed above, breast lumps are common in older women and often end up being cysts; small sacs filled with fluid. These lumps can also be a symptom of Fibroadenomas, benign growths that can randomly develop in the breast but are more common in younger women. However, if you do discover any lumps, even if they’re only small, a trip to the doctor is always advisable, so that you can rule out any more concerning conditions.
Breast cancer is just one of these conditions and tends to be more common among women over 50. As well as lumps, there are some other symptoms to look out for which could indicate the development of breast cancer including:
- Dimpling in the breast
- Inverting of the nipple
- Discharge from the nipple
- A rash on or around the nipple
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, please visit your GP as soon as possible to ensure that if you are experiencing anything serious, it can be treated at the earliest point.
In the UK, breast screening is used to detect breast cancer and is offered by the NHS, to women aged between 50-70 for free. Breast screening works by using a mammogram (an x-ray of the breast) to identify cancers that are too deep within the breast to be seen or felt. According to experts, having a mammogram is the best way to catch breast cancer at the earliest point before it becomes too aggressive, consequently making it harder to treat.
Screening Over 70
Women who are 70 or over will stop receiving postal breast screening invitations. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have one; if you feel you’d like to continue with breast screenings, you can arrange to have one at your closest breast screening clinic. More importantly, if you discover a lump or begin to experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your GP who can refer you for a breast screening. Women over 70 have the highest risk of developing breast cancer due to their age, so always visit the doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts, no matter how big or small.
Have you got a breast experience that you’d like to share with us? If so, please get in touch on our social media – we’d love to hear your story. Alternatively, head over to our health page to find out more about women’s over 60’s health.