Wrinkles, fine lines and gravity are typical concerns for women as they age. However, the aging process also impacts the breasts. While many women believe that changes in the breasts only occur during puberty or pregnancy, this isn’t entirely accurate. Your breasts continue to change due to variations in the reproductive hormones as you age. Understanding the changes in your breasts as you move from your 20s to your 40s can be beneficial when you are considering having work performed on them.
Women in their 20s will notice changes or fluctuations in breast size for multiple reasons. Fibrocystic changes are common during this decade and completely normal. These changes cause benign lumps that are noncancerous and appear as swollen and/or painful bumps in the breast tissue and are usually associated with a change in hormones during the menstrual cycle. Plus, many women get pregnant in their 20s so breast enlargement happens with that weight gain while preparing for lactation. During pregnancy, a woman’s nipples can grow larger and the areolas can become darker. Although these two changes should return to their pre-pregnancy appearance after birth, the changes in lactation may cause the breasts to become larger or smaller than they were.
Women in their 30s usually have a few kids or have undergone several weight fluctuations causing the skin on the breasts to stretch. These fluctuations can lead to stretch marks or ptosis which is a drooping of the breasts. Although a certain degree of ptosis can transpire during weight fluctuation, droopiness usually occurs more with age and stretch marks are more likely to appear on the abdomen and buttocks. Women with substantial weight fluctuations during pregnancy may have more significant changes. Some of these deviations can include wider spacing between the breasts, elongated or deflated breasts and nipple displacement which causes the nipples to point to the sides instead of straight ahead. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, many women in their 30s become unhappy with their breast changes and make up the majority of patients who seek implants or a breast lift. While certain women wish to return to their pre-pregnancy state, others hope to gain a more youthful appearance.
Women in their 40s will notice further changes in their breast shape, feel and density. As menopause sets in, the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. With less estrogen, the skin becomes dry and less elastic which causes the breasts to lose their firmness and fullness. Furthermore, the breasts go through a period of irregular changes called involution. During involution, portions of the breast tissue are replaced by fat which makes certain areas of the breasts less firm. The change in tissue can cause soft lumps in the breasts similar to the cartilage on the side of your nose. If the lumps feel firm like the bridge of the nose, they should be evaluated. During this decade, the breasts become saggy thanks to age and gravity and because the body begins to slow down its collagen production. Collagen is a natural protein which also helps tissues with elasticity. With all the changes in the tissue, the breasts become less dense and begin to shrink in size due to volume loss. However, the reduced density makes it easier for doctors to detect cancerous lumps during a mammogram. For that reason, mammograms are recommended each year after a woman turns 40.
With all of these changes occurring as you age, it is important to know why they are happening and if they are impacting your health. If you notice any differences that concern you, schedule a consultation with a doctor. An experienced doctor can perform an examination and let you know if there is a health issue or if the changes are just a natural part of getting older.