Normal vs abnormal breast changes

Our breasts come in all different shapes and sizes and can change over time due to various factors such as age, weight loss or gain, pregnancy and menopause.

Here’s what to look out for to help you get to know your normal.

Natural breast changes

Hormone replacement therapy & birth control

Breast tissue density increases because of the increased estrogen and progesterone hormone supplementation. Though normal, it’s important to mention to a healthcare professional when getting your breast screen.


Before and during your period, you may experience swelling and tenderness in one or both breasts. You may also feel some lumps because of the extra fluid in your breasts around this time.

Pregnancy, breastfeeding & postpartum

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, your breasts produce milk and increase the number of glands to support production. You may feel more lumps, notice changes in size or shape, skin colour, visible veins and increased sensitivity in the nipple or breast tissue.

During postpartum, you may feel mild or severe pain or discomfort in the breast tissue and lumps due to blocked milk ducts or mastitis.

Perimenopause & Postmenopause

Just before menopause and during, your hormone levels are drastically changing. You may feel more tender and notice some lumps during this stage of life.

After menopause
, you’ll notice little to no breast pain, lumps or nipple discharge because of the drop in hormone levels.

Abnormal breast changes

  • Feeling a new lump or mass in the breast or underarm area that was not there before.
  • Noticeable changes in the size or shape of one or both breasts.
  • Any changes in the skin of the breast, such as redness, dimpling, or puckering, resembling an orange peel.
  • Changes in the nipple, such as inversion (pulling inward), discharge (other than breast milk), or crusting.
  • Persistent breast pain or tenderness that does not seem related to the menstrual cycle.
  • Unexplained swelling in the breast or surrounding area.
  • Spontaneous discharge from only one nipple, particularly if bloody or clear.
  • Persistent itching or irritation in the breast or nipple area.
  • Thickening of the skin on the breast or nipple.
  • Changes in sensation, such as numbness or tingling in the breast or nipple area.

Breast Pain

Breast pain (mastalgia) can be cyclical and non-cyclical. Both types of breast pain can affect women and may increase due to various factors. We want to empower you with insight into the characteristics and potential triggers of each type so you can better understand your breast health.

Here’s what you need to know ↓


Linked to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, occurring just before menstruation and through the early days of the period. The pain may intensify approximately two weeks before the start of the period.


Breasts may feel tender, swollen, or sore, affecting both breasts simultaneously.

Influencing factors

More common in younger women in their 20s and 30s and those approaching menopause. Hormonal medications (oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy) and breast tissue density may also contribute to sensitivity.

Non-cyclical breast pain

Influencing factors

More common in women over 40 and can be associated with breast cysts, breast trauma, or inflammatory conditions.


Not tied to the menstrual cycle and may persist throughout the month.


The pain may be localised or felt throughout the breast.


A tight, burning, aching or stabbing sensation.

Regardless of the type of breast pain, it’s important to remember that most breast pain is not indicative of breast cancer. However, any persistent or severe breast pain, especially when accompanied by other concerning symptoms, should be checked by your doctor.

Regardless of the type of breast pain, it’s important to remember that most breast pain is not indicative of breast cancer. However, any persistent or severe breast pain, especially when accompanied by other concerning symptoms, should be checked by your doctor.

Breast lumps

Not every breast lump is cancerous, but it’s still good breast health practice to get any changes in your breast checked as soon as possible. Here are some examples of benign breast lumps:

  • Fibroadenomas - Smooth, rubbery lumps that can move under the skin. They are usually painless and most commonly found in younger women.
  • Cysts - Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that feel like round or oval lumps. They may change in size throughout the menstrual cycle and are more common in women approaching menopause.
  • Fibrocystic Changes - Benign changes in breast tissue that can cause lumpiness or discomfort. The breasts may feel tender, and the lumps may come and go with hormonal changes.
  • Papillomas - Small, wart-like growths in the ducts of the breast. They may cause nipple discharge and are usually non-cancerous.
  • Lipomas - Lipomas are soft, movable lumps made of fat cells. While they can occur anywhere in the body, they may also be found in the breast.
  • Galactoceles - Cysts that form when milk accumulates in the breast during breastfeeding. They are usually painless and may resolve on their own.
  • Mammary Duct Ectasia - This condition involves the inflammation and dilation of milk ducts, leading to a thickened and sometimes tender lump.
  • Benign Phyllodes Tumors - These rare tumours are typically harmless, but they may sometimes require surgical removal.

Breast check reminder

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