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Breasts

Breast and nipple development

  • Breasts will begin developing during puberty and won’t finish growing until you are at least 21 years old
  • All breasts grow at different rates and come in all different shapes and sizes but usually your nipples and your areola - the part of skin that surrounds the nipple - will begin to swell, so it looks like you have small buds then later your breasts start to develop into a more adult shape, with your nipples and areola swelling even more. You may notice some tenderness and soreness as your breasts grow
  • It is not unusual to have one breast bigger than the other. They will even out as you get older, but no two breasts are ever identical, so don’t worry if yours don’t look the same – it’s normal
  • The size of your breasts can be determined by your family history, your age and your weight
  • To find out what bra size you need, try visiting a shop that offers a free measuring service so you can get the right bra for you. You could think about taking your parent or guardian or a friend if you want help choosing or feel nervous about going During pregnancy and after childbirth, breasts begin to produce milk for breast-feeding
  • Nipples also come in all different shapes and sizes. Small, large, dark-coloured or light-coloured, inverted or pointy - all are completely normal

Breast changes and self-examination

  • Nearly 70% of women experience breast pain at some stage in their lives and this is usually linked with the menstrual cycle when your breasts tend to swell. If you experience severe or prolonged breast pain, consult your GP
  • It is common for women to develop red stretch marks on their breasts as they grow. These will become less prominent over time, turning white
  • Examining your breasts is very important and this should be done at least once a month, preferably the week after your period has finished when the breasts are less tender
  • Your GP can advise you on the best way to examine yourself or you can visit the links below for more advice
  • Breast examination will help with the early detection of any abnormalities in the breast, such as lumps or other changes
  • Breast examination is strongly recommended for women aged 20 and over
  • Breast lumps occurring during puberty are very rarely anything to be worried about, but you should check with your GP anyway
  • When checking your breasts, it is important to look for changes, such as
    • A change in its shape (pulling of skin or visible swelling)
    • Changes in the nipple (pulling in)
    • Swelling in armpit
    • Lumps or thickening
  • If you are concerned about any changes in your breasts, it is very important to consult your GP as soon as possible. Most lumps found in breasts are benign but early detection is crucial in breast cancer so make an appointment as soon as you can

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