For Appointments (302) 678-DOCS(3627)
If you are in need emergency medical care,
Please dial 911 immediately!!
General Surgery

What’s Normal

Your Breasts – What’s Normal

  • In general, breasts start to develop around age 9 to 11. However, it is quite natural to see the growth at a time either earlier or later than this age.
  • The breast development rate is different from person to person. Therefore, don’t be apprehensive if your friends’ breasts are bigger or smaller than yours.
  • Breasts completely develop by the age of 17, in general.
  • Your breasts will change at different stages through your life– during your period, pregnancy/delivery, menopause, and in old age.

Size and Shape

  • Breasts have different shapes and sizes and every woman’s breasts are different.
  • Nipples can point up or down, be dark or pale, big or small – and can be different for each breast.
  • You cannot make your breasts bigger or smaller by using creams, pills, doing massage/exercise, or sleeping on your front.

Don’t worry!

There are a few things that are quite common with all breasts don’t worry! 

  • One breast may look bigger than the other.
  • One or both nipples may be inverted or turned inwards.
  • You breasts may feel lumpy, smooth, soft or firm.
  • You may feel tenderness, soreness or lumps just before your period.
  • You may get stretch marks as your breasts grow.
  • You may have bumps on the areola (the darker area around the nipple).
  • You may observe hair growing around the nipple.

All about Bras

  • Bras help to support your breasts, as breasts do not have any muscle.
  • There are different types of bras available – sporty, lacy, padded, underwired, or wireless. Choose the one that is comfortable and maintains your shape well.
  • It is fine if you want to sleep wearing a bra – just make sure you are comfortable.
  • While exercising you should wear a sports bra to provide good support to your breast tissue.
  • If your bra is displaying signs of wear and tear then it is the time to replace it with a new bra.

Take it back!

A well-fitting bra should make you feel comfortable, confident and look good. Your bra does not fit properly if

  • Your breasts bulge out the top, sides or bottom
  • You have marks or lines on your shoulders, sides, back or breasts
  • The back strap of your bra rides up above your shoulder blades
  • Your bra straps keep slipping down your shoulders
  • Your bra cups look wrinkly
  • The underwiring digs in your armpits
  • The center of the bra or its underwiring sits away from your body

Don’t believe it!

None of the following makes you more prone to breast cancer

  • Using deodorant
  • Wearing an underwire bra
  • Breast injury or trauma
  • Having your nipple pierced

What is normal?

Breasts: Different Shapes and Sizes

Breasts can be observed in different sizes and shapes- big, round, flat, pointed, small, pear-shaped, and sloping. The size and shape of the breast depends on the genes that are inherited from the parents. Each person will have different breast size and shape; no one has breasts exactly the same as another person. Do not expect your breasts to look the same as somebody else’s.

What can you do?
There is nothing you can do to make your breasts grow bigger or smaller – or change their shape. Remember, breasts will change eventually as they develop.

Nipples: Different Shapes, Sizes, and Colors
Nipples, like breasts, can be observed in different shapes, sizes, and colors- pointed up or down, dark or pale, big or small; and can appear differently on each breast. Some people have nipples that get hard and stick out (become erect) when they are cold, or when they are rubbed. Others have nipples that stick out all the time.

What can you do?
Nothing can be done to change the size, shape, or color of your nipples. If you are not comfortable or embarrassed by erect nipples, you can select a bra that is padded or even try applying skin colored stick-on nipple covers.

Uneven Breasts

For most women breasts are asymmetrical (10% severely), with the left breast larger in majority of women (62%). It is very common to have one breast larger than the other and this is perfectly normal. At times one breast may develop quicker than the other, but they will usually evenup with time. It is quite usual for people to have breasts that are slightly different in size and position.

What can you do?
There is not much you can do about uneven breasts; over time most differences will be evened up. A good bra can mask the differences between your breasts quite well. In special cases, surgery can be considered to increase or reduce the size of breasts.

Hair around the Nipples

It is very normal to have hair growing around the nipple and areola.

What can you do?
If you are concerned about the hair growth around your nipple you can cut them off close to the skin with small scissors. This is more advised than plucking or shaving, as that may cause infection.

Inverted Nipples

Some people may have inverted nipples (nipples that are turned inwards) which are quite normal. There is nothing to worry about. Inverted nipples can be present at birth or happen as the breasts are developing. Inverted nipples seldom stick out upon rubbing or once the breasts have grown, or after childbirth and breastfeeding.

Pimple-like Bumps around the Nipples
Sebaceous glands not accompanying hair follicles may be present on the skin of the areola opening into the ducts just beneath the nipple. They form visible swellings on the areola and can become inflamed. They are common in most women and these small bumps on the areola are called Montgomery tubercles.

Stretch Marks

There can be some red spoke-like lines on the breasts, which develop and grow very quickly and are referred to as stretch marks. Most girls get them during puberty and pregnancy. With time, most stretch marks fade away to match the color of the rest of the skin.

What can you do?
Nothing can prevent stretch marks, especially if your body develops quickly. Moisturizing the skin might help. The red marks usually will fade over time to match the natural color of the skin.

Tenderness and Pain

There can be some tingling and an achy feeling in your chest when your breasts are growing. The hormonal changes after periods may make the breasts feel tender, painful or sore a week or so just before your period starts. This does not occur in everyone.

Smooth or Lumpy Breasts

Your breasts may feel smooth, lumpy, or just different during your period. This is common, and they will often settle down again. Lumps in the growing breast are nearly always due to normal changes in the breast tissue. Lumps occasionally are a sign of a benign (harmless) breast abnormality, which needs complete check-up by a physician.

The most common benign lump in developing breasts is fibroadenoma, a solid lump of tissue around 1–3 cm in size, that is smooth and moves easily under the skin. They are usually painless, though sometimes they can feel tender or even painful. These lumps are common and do not usually need any treatment once they have been checked out by a physician.

What can you do?
If you find a lump in your breast, consult your doctor. It is very unlikely to have a serious problem, but the physician will be able to check it out and give you peace of mind.

Extra Breasts and Nipples

Some women may have an extra breast or pair of breasts known as accessory breasts located usually in the lower armpit. They are often present from birth, but sometimes they can appear during puberty also. In addition, some people have extra nipple/nipples below the breast or above the belly button. Accessory breasts and extra nipples may cause anxiety and embarrassment, but they are not a health concern, are quite normal and do not need to be removed.

What can you do?
If you have an accessory breast and/or extra nipples, you may feel worried and embarrassed. During periods, you may notice normal changes such as a heavy feeling and tenderness in the breasts, both natural and accessory. If you are finding this upsetting or uncomfortable, do consult, and discuss with your physician the options available to you.

Nipple Discharge

There might be some discharge from the nipple once your breasts have fully developed. This is perfectly normal; and might happen after exercise or massage of the breast/nipple. The discharge is usually white in color, but can vary from yellow, to green, to a brown/red. It usually occurs in very small amounts and is normal.

What can you do?
If the discharge is in larger quantities and you have other concerns about your breast, consult your physician.

Excessive Growth

A very few girls experience excessive growth of breast tissue (during development) where the breasts grow large and out of proportion to the rest of the body, referred to as breast hypertrophy. The causes of breast hypertrophy are unknown, but increased sensitivity to hormones is purported to be a possible cause. Girls with breast hypertrophy often feel embarrassed and complain of frequent backache.

What can you do?
Surgery is the only option for treating breast hypertrophy. If you have breast hypertrophy, proper diet and weight loss will not help reduce breast size.

Know your Breasts

You should know and love your breasts before, during and after they develop. It will be better if you get to know the way your breasts normally look and feel so it will be easier to notice changes, if any. So if you get lumpy breasts before your period this is nothing to be anxious about as it is normal.

The presence of a breast lump does not indicate that you have breast cancer, as 9 out of 10 breast lumps are not cancerous. Usually people experience lumpy breasts before their period as a response to hormonal changes which often disappear after the period. If the lump does not go away, it is important to get it examined by a physician to put your mind at rest. Breast cancer can affect any women irrespective of her breast size.

What bras are for
Wearing a bra gives support to the breasts, as they do not have any muscle, and mostly consist of fatty tissue. Breasts are naturally supported by ligaments and muscles behind, but wearing a bra gives them additional support and a defined shape. As you become older, a bra can help to prevent your breasts from drooping.
It is your personal choice to wear a bra when your breasts are growing. However, it is often a good idea to wear a bra for support while playing sports or during exercise. Most people do not wear a bra at night, but sleeping in a bra will not do any harm or stop breasts from developing.

Different size Bras
Just as breasts vary, bras come in a variety of sizes and shapes ranging from 28 to 46, with cups sized AA to JJ. The back size is how a bra fits around the back and the cup size is the size of the cup that holds the breast. Bras also have adjustable straps to give a better fit.

Buying a Bra
There are many shops to choose from when you are buying a bra. If you are choosing a bra for the first time, you may want to go to a department store and have a look at the many different styles and sizes of bras.
Department stores may also have trained bra fitters to help you find a bra that fits you properly. A bra fitter will often measure you over your clothes to get an idea of your back and cup size. This is only a guide, as bras will vary in size due to different makes and styles. To find the right bra you will have to try on lots of different bras to see which is most comfortable in size and style.

How to find a well-fitting Bra
Before buying a bra, you need to try it on so that you know it fits properly. Bra sizes vary a lot depending on the style, make and material, so you may need to try on quite a few before you find the one that suits you best.
A bra fits well if

  • It’s not too tight or too loose
  • Your breasts fill the cup of the bra without bulging over the top or out the sides
    The strap at the back does not cut in
  • The shoulder straps do not carry the full weight of your breasts, stay in place when you lift your arms above your head, and fit closely to your body without cutting in
  • The strap round the back and the front underband lie close to your body and are at the same level at the front and back
  • With an underwired bra, the underwire lies flat against your body and supports the underneath and sides of your breast without digging in or gaping

If a bra does not feel right, the best thing is to try another one. Try on different makes and slightly different sizes – just because a bra fits in one style, this does not mean it will fit in another.

When to get a new bra
Your breasts constantly change when they are developing, and even after fully developed they may still change – and so will your bra size. If a bra does not fit as well as it did – maybe because you have gained or lost weight or the bra is slightly worse for wear –probably it is time to get a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions from younger women about breasts and breast cancer.

What does or does not increase the risk of breast cancer?
There are newspaper stories available about different things that increase the risk of getting breast cancer. Nevertheless, they often try to attract the reader’s attention with an awful headline and its risk. In spite of the copious clinical evidence on breast cancer, information about its causes and people at risk is still ambiguous. There might a combination of different causes rather a single one.

Does smoking increase breast cancer?
No, although smoking is an important cause of cancer in the world it does not appear to affect the risk of breast cancer significantly. However, certainly smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and also cancer of the bladder, cervix, kidney, voice box (larynx), mouth, food pipe (esophagus), pancreas, stomach and a few other types of leukemia. Smoking has also been proven to increase the risk of heart disease and some respiratory conditions.

Does use of deodorant increase breast cancer risk?
No. Initially, certain hoax correspondences correlated antiperspirants and deodorants to breast cancer. They claimed that deodorants prevent the body from sweating out toxins that accumulate in the lymph glands under the armpit and cause breast cancer. Sweating does not help in getting rid of these toxins, as it does not involve the lymph glands. Further, no convincing evidence is available linking the use of deodorants to the risk of breast cancer.

Does wearing an underwire bra increase breast cancer risk?
It is anticipated that underwire bras constrict the body’s lymph glands, leading to breast cancer. However, this is not true. A poorly fitting bra may lead to discomfort and pain, but will not increase breast cancer risk.

Does breast injury increase the risk of getting breast cancer?
Any injury such as falling or being hit in the chest will not increase breast cancer risk. It leads to bruising and swelling of the breast, and may lead to a benign (non-cancerous) lump known as fat necrosis. Fat necrosis occurs when the fatty breast tissue swells and becomes tender, which is repaired naturally by the body.

Having pierced nipples increases the risk of breast cancer?
No, nipple piercing will not increase breast cancer risk. However, it may increase the risk of infection, and breastfeeding can be difficult due to the damaged milk ducts.

Does drinking alcohol cause breast cancer?
Yes, drinking more than the recommended daily amount (2 units for women and 3 units for men) of alcohol increases the risk of developing breast cancer and can contribute to many heart conditions.

Does a using contraceptive pill lead to breast cancer?
A small research study correlated that taking the oral contraceptive pill for a long time increases the risk of breast cancer. Likewise, stopping the pill may reduce the risk back to normal after 10 years. Recently a larger study revealed that taking contraceptive pills might increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer is rare in younger women, in whom taking the pill is an effective way to avoid conceiving.

Does eating a healthy diet have any impact on breast cancer?
Eating a healthy diet can actually reduce the risk of cancer and protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. But, people who do not eat a healthy diet and are very overweight (obese), may have an increased risk of getting breast cancer as their age advances.

Will sunbathing cause breast cancer?
No, topless sunbathing will not cause breast cancer. But, the skin on the breast is delicate so it is more likely to get burnt quite earlier than the other body areas. Further, too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight and from sun beds may cause skin cancer. Therefore, to reduce this risk always limit the sun exposure time, and use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.