Your Best Breast Questions Answered
December 26, 2015
Breasts get a tremendous amount of attention in the media – the bulk of it is sexually-focused and the remainder typically revolves around breast cancer. However, the majority of questions, issues or challenges women face in regards to their breasts have little to nothing to do with either of those topics.
9 (there are no embarrassing) Questions You Wanted to Ask About Your Breasts
So, we felt it was time to put together a list of 9 questions that cover the gamut of breast-related topics or concerns that women bring up in our office (or were too embarrassed to discuss without a little gentle poking and prodding).
- I’m XX-teen and my boobs haven’t started growing yet…is that normal? First, let’s be clear: there is no “normal.” Every one of these answers could start out with that response. That being said, “normal” breast development occurs between the ages of 8 and 13…but it can start much later. Breast development is largely due to genetics, so typically your mother or one of your grandmothers holds the key to what your breasts will look like. First, only the nipples will begin to pop out a bit. Then, the tissue behind the nipples will begin to fill out – leaving your breasts looking “pointy.” Over time, and as your reproductive hormones gear up, breasts will assume their fully-developed size, which can fluctuate your entire life in response to weight gain, pregnancy, breastfeeding, post-pregnancy, hormonal changes, your period, menopause, etc. The key isn’t what age you are when your breasts develop, but rather what age you are when you start your period – the bona fide signal that you’ve started puberty. This is one of the reasons we recommend mothers make gynecologist appointments for daughters earlier on; you can ask these questions and have them answered by a doctor, and we can watch your development and reassure you that it’s right on track. Make an appointment with a gynecologist if you haven’t started your period or had any signs of breast tissue development by age 15 or 16, or if you started your period two years ago but haven’t had a regular period yet.
- There’s hair growing out of my nipples, is something wrong? Hair growth is related to hormone levels and these fluctuate according to your menstrual cycle. Just as women can have an errant hair or two on their upper lip or chin, dark, coarse hairs often pop up around the nipples as well. You may also find them on your chest or breasts. This is totally normal and you can easily pluck them out with tweezers (don’t shave as it can irritate sensitive nipple tissues). If hair growth seems thicker than just a few hairs, you have excessive hair growth on your face and/or you have irregular periods – mention all of the above to your OB/GYN so she can rule out polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- How do I get rid of acne on my chest? Acne on your breasts is similar to acne anywhere else – and clogged pores are the culprit. The first step is to see if it’s topically, rather than internally created. Start using hypoallergenic everything – detergent, soap, shampoo, and fragrance-free lotion – to rule out any type of allergic reaction. Make sure your bras fit properly (have a professional fitting – many women are surprised to find out they’re wearing the wrong size bra!) and strip out of sports bras immediately after a workout and wash sweat off your breasts. Also, cut out salty, fatty foods or foods with refined sugars to reduce inflammation. Try using an acne face wash (Neutrogena products are fantastic). If all of that fails you, visit a dermatologist for more situation-specific treatments.
- How can I eliminate boob sweat? Elimination is not likely as sweat glands are doing their job, working to keep you cool and detox your body. However, you can make yourself more comfortable before a workout, on hot days, or in situations where nerves may cause you to perspire more heavily by applying baby powder (or Gold Bond), which helps to absorb the moisture. You can also use deodorant – be careful as this may irritate breasts if you have sensitive skin. Make sure to wash your chest/breasts as soon as you’re able to prevent breakouts (See #3 Above).
- Why are my breasts different sizes/shapes/colors? Cosmo covers may lead you believe that all breasts are identical twins. In fact, it’s rare that a woman has two, perfectly symmetrical breasts. Most women can tell you right off the bat which of “the girls” is bigger. Some women have very noticeable size differences, and that is normal too. It’s also normal to have super small or super large breasts, really tiny or very big areolas (the colored tissue around the nipples) and other variations, nipples that always pop out or inverted nipples that always stay tucked in. Check out The Breast Gallery and you will see oodles of pictures of “real” breasts – and learn how different breasts really can be. If asymmetrical breasts hinder your self-esteem, cosmetic surgery is an option but one that we don’t recommend unless you simply can’t learn to accept your body as it is. Just remember the wise words of a woman from The Breast Gallery who has dramatically asymmetrical breasts, “I have found in my personal experience that men are just as concerned with their imperfections as we are with our own and they know that REAL women’s breast are not what is shown on TV, movies, etc.”
- Why are there bumps on my nipples? These bumps have a name, they are called Montgomery tubercles and they help a baby latch on while breastfeeding. They also secrete a lubricant that aids in breastfeeding as well. You also have oil glands on your nipples and these can get clogged – forming a pimple. In most cases, clogged pores will regulate themselves without much assistance on your part, unless you have acne in which case you can see #3 above.
- How do I get rid of stretch marks? Unfortunately, you can’t. Some very surface stretchmarks can fade with the help of special creams, but in most cases stretch marks are there to stay and will typically fade a bit over time. Your skin’s elasticity is largely genetic and rapid weight gain, weight loss and/or growth spurts tend to cause them on breasts, hips, tummies and thighs. Know you aren’t alone, most women have them. And, guess what? Most men have them too – start looking closer at their buttocks and hip areas…and even along the sides of their pecs.
- Should I get breast reduction surgery? Women all think they want large breasts – unless they have them. Large breasts can be just as cumbersome as they are desirable – depending on your size, shape and lifestyle. Breast reduction surgery should be considered very carefully before you commit as there can be complications and irreparable changes from the procedure. Breast reduction surgery is best for women who:
—experience back, neck and/or shoulder pain as the result of their breast size.
—have a hard time participating in athletic events or certain hobbies or activities because their breasts are uncomfortable or get in the way.
—are so self-conscious about them that it alters what they wear, how they behave or how they feel about themselves.
You may want to consider holding off until you are finished having children, just in case your breast weight fluctuates back up, as the result of hormones and weight-gain and to ensure you can breastfeed.
- What side effects can implants cause? The idea of a boob job can be appealing for women who are self-conscious about small and/or irregularly-shaped breasts. However, there are serious risks and complications associated with breast implants. These range from infection and misshapen breasts to popped implants, numbness in the nipples and breasts, chronic breast pain, breast hardening, and so on. The decision to augment your breasts should be weighed very, very carefully. Should you decide to proceed, save up and invest in a plastic surgeon with an excellent reputation in the field. Your health, safety and satisfaction are well-worth the extra investment.
Do you have a question about your breasts? Ask, and we’ll try to answer. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to bring it up at your next OB/GYN appointment. That’s what we’re here for.