The Normal Breast

The breast consists of a number of milk glands that are connected to the nipple by small ducts. This milk producing tissue is supported by firm fibrous tissue and fatty tissue that gives the breast its shape.


The breast first starts to develop at puberty. The size and shape of the breast varies considerably during your lifetime.

Breast tissue is affected by hormonal changes. The breast may feel larger and more tender for a few days before your period.

Breast size increases during pregnancy and the breasts can shrink and become more droopy after breastfeeding.

During your 40s and 50s the breast tissue becomes softer. There are changes in the structure of the small ducts and lobules and as part of this fibrocystic change we often see fluid filled lumps called cysts developing in the tissue. These may remain for some years but eventually they are reabsorbed and disappear so that it is uncommon to find cysts in someone in their 70s.

Examining your own breasts can be confusing as the breast tissue has a lumpy texture and also feels different at various times during your menstrual cycle. In thin people it is also possible to feel normal structures such as the ribs or lymph nodes through the skin. It is useful to become familiar with how your breast tissue and chest wall feel. The important thing with breast checks is recognising persistent changes from what is normal for you.

Breast Care Book

Comprehensive Information and
advice on all aspects
of breast care.

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