Your breasts can communicate a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Use these signs to learn what your breasts are telling you — and see your medical care provider if you suspect something is up.
11. It’s probably NBD. “This is not related to breast cancer,” Dr. Weintraub says. “Different women just have different pigmentation patterns.”
12. It’s probably NBD. Dr. Minkin chalks this up to normal variation.
13. It’s probably NBD. The breast is designed for milk production, and those bumps are just the ends of milk ducts. They sometimes puff out a bit, so it’s normal to have small, pimple-like bumps on your areolas.
14. You could have a benign cyst or cancerous tumor. Calmly call your health care provider to schedule a screening as soon as you can. She can tell you whether you’re feeling normal breast tissue or have cause for concern.
15. It could mean you’ve been exposed to testosterone cream or gel. Some guys use the stuff to boost sex drive — but rubbing up against said guy can expose you to the hormone and its side effects, Dr. Minkin explains. This could include hair growth in random places.
16. You could have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you find yourself suddenly sprouting chest hair, your testosterone levels might be elevated due to PCOS, a condition where your ovaries or adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of male hormones, resulting in cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on the ovaries, and other symptoms such as acne and irregular periods. Because PCOS can result in infertility if left untreated, see your doctor for a formal diagnosis if these symptoms sound familiar.
17. It might mean you left shampoo or soap residue on your breast. Just rinse off with water and apply hydrocortisone cream for some sweet relief.
18. Or you’re allergic to your clothing. A new bra can contain dye or other compounds that elicit a reaction — and the same goes for a wooly sweater. Apply hydrocortisone cream and change clothes or bras to see if the itch goes away.
19. Or you’re getting your period. Sometimes changes in your hormones (the ultimate scape goat!) can trigger itchiness leading up to your period.
20. Or you could have Paget disease. It’s also known as nipple carcinoma, a very rare form of breast cancer. Look for itchiness around the nipple and areola; flaky, crusty skin; a flattened nipple; and yellow or bloody discharge — and see your health care provider ASAP if any of these symptoms sound familiar.
21. It might mean you’re getting your period. It’s pretty common to experience changes in your breasts — from the texture to sensitivity — in the days leading up to your period. And it’s normal to wonder whether these changes signal something more serious (like a cancerous tumor)
To find out whether your symptoms are related to your cycle or are cause for concern, Dr. Minkin recommends taking a tried-and-true combination of vitamins on days when you’re uncomfortable: 200 milligrams of vitamin B6, 300 milligrams of vitamin E, and two 500-milligram capsules of evening primrose oil. Then wait one menstrual cycle. If the soreness and lumpiness doesn’t go away, see your doctor, who can confirm whether you’re feeling normal breast tissue or something off. (Most of the time, tumors don’t cause pain. So breast pain can actually be a good sign — even if it only occurs in one breast as opposed to both.)
22. It might mean you’re OD-ing on caffeine. Caffeine can sometimes aggravate breast soreness — so cutting back on coffee and sodas (in addition to taking the supplements listed above) can help bring your breasts back to baseline.
23. It could mean you’re feeling stimulated. The breasts are designed for milk-making, so a little leakage that resembles milk just means they’re just doing their thing. It can happen in response to physical stimulation — and you don’t have to be pregnant or nursing to experience it, Dr. Minkin explains. If the odd drop bothers you, there are some medications that can help.
24. It might be because you’re taking an antidepressant or antipsychotic. Some prescription meds elevate your levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production. The vast majority of the time, this isn’t dangerous — it’s just a pesky side effect.