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What does normal breast aging look like, especially fibrocystic?
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What does normal breast aging look like, especially fibrocystic?

I'm 39, never been pregnant.  I'm going to see my doctor next week for a routine exam anyway, but meanwhile, I'm trying not to stress too much over something I've newly noticed on my left breast.  I say "newly noticed" because, despite having fibrocystic breasts and a history of 2 fibroadenomas, I haven't been very good about doing BSEs over the past couple of years.  For reasons I still haven't fully pinpointed, I got extremely anxious about the whole business for a while, and after an "all clear" diagnostic mammogram and thorough clinical exam last year, which my doctor had prescribed more for my reassurance than for any actual new findings, I decided that giving myself a break from thinking about it would improve my overall health more than would obsessing over every little thing. So for the past year I've barely looked at them, and have only in the past week started doing self exams again - because now I'm worried about something again.

Last week, on day 1 of my cycle, I noticed something in the mirror I hadn't noticed before.  Because I'm fibrocystic, my breasts were sort of swollen and even LOOKED a bit bumpy (does this happen to anyone else?)  But there was one spot that seemed to have a little shadow.  It was basically a horizontal line/indentation/crease, about 2 inches long, starting at the breast/ribcage junction and extending about halfway to the nipple. The skin above seemed to be slightly bulging above it - but only very slightly.  I immediately went into all sorts of contortions to see what would happen.  It disappeared entirely when I raised my arms above my head, and wasn't visible at all with the arm at rest - I must have looked in the mirror at just the right time as my pec. was slightly flexed.  It did become more prominent with flexing.  I checked the other side, which sort of bulged up in approximately the same place as I flexed, but that breast is naturally fuller/rounder, and it was really hard to say if it was the same thing or not.  I have  NOT noticed any lumps or thickening in the area - then again, I'm fibrocystic, so it's hard to tell!

A week has gone by, hormones have disappated, and now I'm getting more of the same kinds of lines/wrinkles below the original wrinkle when I flex those muscles.  BUT - I'm also getting a similar effect on the other, fuller breast upon flexation.  The lines aren't in exactly the same spot (a bit lower) and none extend into the breast quite as far as the one I first noticed, but they're similar enough that I think they could just be part of normal breast anatomy that I've just never noticed before.  Or maybe it's an aging related thing?  The original line is now a little more readily obvious, but there are lines on the other breast that now seem to go deeper.

I know only my doctor can give me real answers, but I wish I knew what normal breast aging looked like.  Could this be a normal thing?  From what I've read online, it seems like dimples become more prominent when the arm is raised, which is the opposite of what's happening with this thing.  

I just really wish there was more online about NORMAL breasts, benign conditions, the regular process of aging, etc.  All I've succeeded in doing so far is scaring myself to death by finding stories about women who had no lump, no US or mammogram findings, just a dimple - and turned out to have cancer.  That's not reassuring at all!  
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5 Comments
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
How are you? There are risk factors that make one more susceptible to breast cancer such as age, personal or family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition, radiation exposure, early onset of menstrual cycle, first pregnancy at an older age, smoking,  or alcohol intake (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/breast-cancer/DS00328/DSECTION=4)
Otherwise, you don't have to worry at all.

There are plenty of articles about normal breasts and benign diseases and aging. These links may be helpful:
http://www.stonybrookhospital.com/BALDWIN/health.htm
http://www.ihs.gov/medicalprograms/MCH/M/MCHdownloads/Chap_P.pdf?page=2
http://imaginis.com/breasthealth/benign.asp

I hope this helps. Take care and keep us posted.

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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you - those links were helpful. I feel about eighty percent sure that this is probably either a normal aging thing or something that's normal for me that I've just never noticed before.  Still, I'm glad my doctor will be checking it out soon. Thank you for your answer!
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
I'm glad i could be of help. It is always good to be vigilant with our health. There are plenty of on-line resources that could help erase any doubts. God bless on your next consultation with your doctor.

Take care and keep us posted.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you again!  I just got back from the doctor, and everything seems to be fine.  She could not feel anything unusual in the area of concern, and couldn't see the wrinkle/shadow either, even when I sat up and flexed the way I've been doing. I specifically asked if this could be a dimple, and she said definitely not.  All she could see were some skin markings - stretch marks, age spots, chicken pox scars, whatever.  I wish she had been able to see what I was talking about, but on the other hand, maybe it's good that she couldn't!

It's possible I should have been more insistent about it - asked her to shine a bright light, gotten a second opinion, demanded a diagnostic workup at the local state of the art breast care center (I've been there twice in the past 3 years for fibroadenomas and pain.)  I suppose I could still do that.  

But I think there comes at point at which I just have to trust my doctor.   She's done THOUSANDS of breast exams, and she's seen breast cancer, dimples, stretch marks, normal tissue variations, and who knows what else.  If she says I'm OK, I just have to go with that, especially if there's not even a lump underneath.  From past experience, I know that a mammogram would show only "heterogeneously dense fibroglandular tissue."  True, they do an EXTREMELY thorough breast inspection over there, but the thing is ... I can do that myself.  

And that's the other person I have to trust:  myself.  The fibrocystic dramas of the past few years have gotten me so on edge that the word that best describes my attitude toward my breasts is "phobic."  Or maybe "paranoid."  I've been avoiding BSEs because I'm just so afraid of finding something, and that HAS to stop.  Immediately.  Doctors are experts on breasts in general, but I am the only one who can be an expert on my particular pair, and the only way to do that is to do BSEs.  I'm going to do one today, actually, because now I know for sure that everything's OK.

Having said all that ... I still don't know what this particular thing is.  But I do have a theory, and I'd love for an expert to tell me whether it's possible or if I'm just inventing reassurance:

If breasts are composed of lobes and sections of glandular tissue and fat, it seems like there would separations between the sections, like the sections of an orange.  A peeled orange looks bumpy, and maybe under the skin, a breast does too,especially a fibrocystic one.  When I flex the muscles, I can see that particular separation more clearly, along with other areas of separation in the same area - AND in the same general area on the other breast (along the side/under the arm.)  For whatever reason - age, gravity, working out (I've lost fat and gained pectoral muscle) the separation between two of the sections has become a bit more distinct, just enough so I can see a shadow when I'm NOT flexed if I'm standing in just the right position and the light is just right. It definitely seems affected by gravity, in any case, because it completely disappears when I raise my arms over my head or if I bend over and look straight down at the floor. I also notice it less in the early morning, when I've been lying horizontal for 8 hours and gravity hasn't had a chance to take a toll.  So I really do think it's normal for me, either something I've never noticed before or something that just happens with age.  What do you experts thing ... is this a possibility?
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
How are you? Your theory seems to be plausible. You were able to relate the cause and effect or the relationship why your breast seems to be that way. Your analogy with an orange is a very good one.This is a good thing because you are more equipped with better understanding and insight on what happens with your own body. With your new found trust in your self, you can now learn to trust and accept other people like your doctor more easily.

Take care and all the best!
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