Breast changes to be aware of once you reach 40
For women, your 40s is a time of major bodily changes – and that includes your breasts. Here’s what’s in store for the girls after ‘the big 4-0’.
If you were to believe everything you see in the movies, your breasts would remain perky and problem-free well into your 60s.
But as any woman who has blown out 40 candles on her birthday cake will tell you, the reality is a little different.
Leading breast cancer surgeon Associate Professor Sanjay Warrier says when you enter your fifth decade, you need to start paying extra attention to your bosom buddies.
“Perimenopause is a really important time to start noticing changes in your breast health,” Assoc Prof Warrier says.
Breast changes in your 40s
From sagging and sensitivity to increased cancer risk, here are some of the changes you may notice in your breasts through your 40s and how to keep them in tip-top health.
Increased breast sensitivity
One of the first changes women in their 40s experience is heightened breast sensitivity, Assoc Prof Warrier says.
“Due to increased surges of estrogen, breasts can become tender and you may notice them a lot more than you did before,” he says.
Wearing a supportive bra can make a world of difference, with one study showing 85 per cent of women with breast pain found relief in a well-fitted sports bra.
If the pain is severe or won’t go away, Assoc Prof arrier says to consult your doctor.
If your bra feels a little tighter, it’s not your imagination, but rest assured your boobs aren’t having a late growth spurt.
“The shorter cycles, increased estrogen and inflammation common in your 40s can lead to swelling,” Assoc Prof Warrier says.
You’re also prone to stack on the kilos during perimenopause and this will add a bit of volume to your cup.
Breasts lose elasticity
Sadly, sagging is all part of the natural ageing process, Assoc Prof Warrier says, and there’s not much you can do about it.
“As you age you lose collagen, your skin becomes less elastic and your tendons lose strength,” he says.
“Your Cooper’s ligaments – the bands of flexible connective tissue that shape and support your breasts – begin to sag.”
While you can’t prevent the loss of collagen and elasticity, wearing a more supportive bra and strengthening the muscles behind your breasts with exercise can reduce the appearance of sagging.
Lumps and bumps
As your breasts age, they can change shape, get lumpier and denser, but this isn’t necessarily cause for concern, Assoc Prof Warrier explains.
“But it can make it more difficult to find troublesome lumps, which is why getting regular check-ups and screens is so important,” he says.
Breast Cancer Network Australia policy, advocacy and support services director Vicki Durston says in your 40s it’s more important than ever to be familiar with the look and feel of your breasts.
“Everyone’s breasts are different, and that’s why we advise people to become familiar with what’s normal for them, so they can notice any changes,” Vicki says.
If you find new lumps in your breast or armpit, red or flaky skin or discharge around your nipple, or thickening, swelling, irritation or dimpling of your breast skin, you should see your doctor without delay.
“Although breast cancer can occur in younger women, most breast cancers occur after menopause,” she says.
“About three-quarters of breast cancer cases occur in women 50 years and over.”
Breast changes: Tips for better bust health
Exercise regularly: Frequent exercise can lower oestrogen and boost immunity.
Buy a good bra: The right support can reduce sagging and sensitivity.
Maintain healthy weight: Being overweight increases sagging, pain and cancer risk.
Get regular exams: Early detection is key to improving breast cancer survival rates.
Know what’s normal: Do regular self-checks and keep an eye out for changes
Cut back on booze: Alcohol increases estrogen and hormones linked to breast cancer.
Butt out: Smoking can increase your risk of breast cancer.
More on breast changes:
- The link between breast density and cancer risk
- The truth about common breast cancer myths
- A mum’s story: What it’s like to battle breast cancer
Written by Dimity Barber.