Is this Normal?
By Jillian Lopiano MD MPH FACOG
Betty’s Co. Medical Director
Betty’s Co. is the next generation of integrative healthcare – providing gynecology, mental health, and healthy living care for the period-havers up to pregnancy-planners. Women’s health is surrounded by stigmas and taboo topics, often preventing them from accessing the care they need. “Is This Normal?” is an ongoing Q&A series we host to give our “Betties” the space to ask the awkward questions, develop body literacy and ultimately, normalize women’s health.
Is it normal to feel a lump in my breast?
Breasts – like thumbprints, vulvas, and dimples – are unique to every individual. They may be uneven or self-described as “lumpy bumpy.” Maybe yours have a ropelike texture to them, which is a common condition known as fibrocystic changes, generally thought to be the result of fluctuating hormones. However, a single, discreet lump in the breast is generally not normal.
Don’t hit the panic button! Several benign causes could be behind a breast lump, but you won’t have certainty without some investigation first. So when you feel a lump, phone your provider. Based on their assessment and your risk factors, like age and family history, they’ll be able to make more definite recommendations on how to move forward.
Is it normal to have breast pain?
Ouch! The truth is: yes and no. Breast pain, heaviness, and tenderness can be the result of many innocuous conditions. One of the most common culprits is called mastalgia, which is brought on by the big two – the menstrual cycle + pregnancy.
Key hormones involved in both processes increase and often diffuse pain across the breast tissue. This is particularly common in adolescents and young adults, but DIY remedies can make a big difference:
• Limit your caffeine intake
• Take NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (except during pregnancy)
• Invest in a supportive bra to help with breast tenderness
Where breast pain might point to abnormal is if you’re experiencing focal pain (concentrated in one spot). This could be a sign of a different issue that will require deeper evaluation.
Is it normal to do at-home breast exams?
Not only is it normal, but on-the-reg, at-home breast exams are one of your best tools to get to know your body + breasts. Size, shape, skin color and texture, presence of freckles or moles, hair, nipple size shape – identify and get to know the features that may be distinctive but normal to you. Once you have established your own “normal,” you’ll be able to spot a rogue freckle, rash, lump, or other irregularity, then pick up the phone and call your doctor.
Establish a monthly routine exam in tandem with your menstrual cycle or right after when breast tissue is less dense. This type of practice is quintessential to the work we are doing at Betty’s Co. with younger women. We can’t develop body literacy if we are strangers to our own.
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