Hello, I am 21 years old and recently I have done some online research on breast cancer and now I'm a bit worried. I have read that breast puckering could be a sign of breast cancer. Sometimes, especially when I feel cold, the area around my nipples becomes puckered and wrinkled. I have also noted that the aerola gets a little bumpy when it becomes puckered. Do I have to worry? How do lumps feel and how big should they be in order to start worrying? And as regards breast puckering, is it normal to occur around the nipples or in any other breast areas? Thanks for your help...
Dear charlenecohen: The puckering and bumps around your nipple and areola that you describe is a normal response of that sensitive breast to cold. You will notice this when you get out of the shower, etc. It is not a sign of breast cancer. When the literature refers to breast puckering or dimpling, they are generally refering to an area of tissue (not usually the nipple area) pulling in and forming a dimple as if something on the inside of the breast is pulling on the skin.
With respect to feeling for lumps, the most important thing is to become familiar with how your breasts feel. A good time to do this is after your period. You should then be feeling for changes. A lump will usually feel hard and painless. At your age you are at low risk for breast cancer, so it is a good time to become familiar with your breast tissue. No need to worry at present.
the changes that occur in the nipple/areola when cold have nothing to do with cancer, and are normal. The puckering that's of concern is that which is always present; it's more like a dimpling, a retraction inward of an area of skin. As to lumps, there's no limit on big or small size in terms of worry; it's more about the nature of the lump. Breasts, unfortunately, are lumpy, so it's not always easy to be sure what's going on. The main thing is that any lump which is new, and which persists -- usually that means doesn't go away after one menstrual cycle -- is better off being checked. At your age, absent a family history, breast cancer is pretty rare; but it's always a good idea to have new findings evaluated.
Actually, I'm not with the Cleveland Clinc, I just answer here because I like to feel helpful.I have no official relationship with this website. (I did attend med school in Cleveland, tho not at the Cleveland Clinic). I did my surgery training at UC San Francisco, and have practiced in the Northwest, in a large clinic, for over 20 years, and in a smaller one for another 5 years before moving further north. I recently semi-retired, mainly mentoring and assisting some of the young surgeons my clinic has hired to replace me (it's taken 3, so far -- I sort of burned out from overwork over the years, a victim, I suppose of my success.) When I began in this clinic there were about 35 docs, and a main campus with one satellite. Now we are over 200, with eight locations. In time I became the senior surgeon, and was much busier than my partners. I was the one people -- including most of the docs and their families -- asked for, and I could never say no. Eventually I convinced the department that we needed another surgeon; when he arrived I took a 3 month sabbatical. It felt so good that I couldn't make myself go back to full time. So the reason I have time to do this is that I'm not working as hard as I had been for the past several years. My practice was as a general surgeon, and I did all of what most general surgeons do; but I have had a special interest in breast cancer, and about half of my practice was devoted to breast cancer and breast diseases. I'm male, married, have one son (26) who works for Adidas. My wife is on the local school board. There it is, in a (large) nutshell.
I'm sure I speak for many people in extending heartfelt thanks for your incredible contribution to this site - it's a remarkable resource for us on this journey. Please accept my best wishes for a happy holiday and a great new year!
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