Yes, your breasts do change with menopause, just as they change with any fluctuation of hormone levels, starting with their development in puberty.
During your late 40s, you’ll start to notice some changes as you approach menopause—the period known as perimenopause. Your periods will be less frequent, and as the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin begin to fluctuate, your breasts may feel tender and more lumpy.
Discomfort is Cyclical
Breast discomfort during the perimenopausal years is usually cyclical—more around the time of your period and decreasing a few days into your period. Feelings of fullness may also occur.
Finally, at menopause—defined as the absence of periods for one year—your hormone levels continue their drop, resulting in breast tissue that’s less dense and more fatty. And with breast tissue that’s less dense, it may be easier for your radiologist to spot cancer on mammograms.
Physical Changes in Your Breasts
You’ll also notice physical changes in your breasts. Estrogen keeps the connective tissue of your breasts hydrated and elastic. In the hormone’s absence, the breasts shrink because the ducts and mammary glands shrink, and the breasts become less firm and lose their shape. You may notice a sagging of the breasts in older women.
Taking hormone replacement therapy to combat the symptoms of menopause may cause some puberty-like symptoms, such as tenderness and swelling. But hormone replacement therapy won’t stop sagging in breasts that were sagging before you started taking the drug.
5 Ways to Help Prevent Breast Tenderness…and Hot Flashes, Too!
- Stress: Reducing stress can reduce the likelihood and severity of breast tenderness. Try different relaxation techniques like deep breathing and yoga. Exercise daily – walk, swim, bike, dance!
- Diet: Eat a healthy diet, consuming fats in moderation. Limit salt which can cause fluid retention, avoid spicy foods, and limit alcohol consumption. Also, avoid cigarette smoke.
- Caffeine: Avoid coffee, chocolate, and caffeinated soda.
- Clothing: Wear non-constricting, comfortable clothing made of natural fibers like cotton. Make sure your bra is the right size and of good quality.
- Stay cool: Keep your bedroom cool at night, chill pillows, and dress in light layers.
Always talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your health.