Check-Up: Worried about my growing breasts
Linette is a 58-year-old woman who is worried about the sudden increase of her bra size since her menstruation stopped three years ago. She has gained some weight generally, but her breasts have grown from wearing a 36C brassiere to 38DD. This significant increase in her bra size has cost her money, as she has had to get new dresses and tops, and all her jackets gape at the front. Her bra straps also tend to cut into her shoulders, and she is not comfortable with this new 'change of life' self!
Linette asks Check Up what measures she can take to remedy the situation. She feels hopeless and just dislikes even going to functions or events these days, as she is always aware of her suddenly 'big' chest.
As we age, the structure of our breasts change due to hormonal changes in our bodies, which occur naturally with the ageing process. Oestrogen hormone keeps the female body curvy and wrinkle-free, and our breasts high and firm. With ageing, the breasts begin to lose their firmness and may change in size, becoming thinner and wrinkled, or larger and lower placed on the chest wall. Age also brings an increased risk of cystic breast disease and breast cancer.
The decline in oestrogen with ageing makes the breasts less elastic. The breasts lose their firmness and tend to develop a more stretched and a looser appearance. Fatty tissue replaces the more youthful and dense breast tissues as the ageing process continues, and at this time it's not uncommon for a woman to change her bra size.
Most of these changes in the breast tissues are associated with menopause, although removal of ovaries for any cause (most commonly as a part of hysterectomy for removal of uterine fibroids) can trigger early menopause or change of life. A woman has transitioned through to the menopause when she has missed her menstrual cycle for more than one year.
With some women who tend to be slimmer, the breasts may lose some of its mass and actually become smaller. Other women gain weight generally and can also see a specific fat deposition to the breasts, causing them to enlarge.
Factors that influence the shape and size of a woman's breast include family history; age; actual volume of breast tissue before menopause; pregnancy; breastfeeding; thickness and elasticity of breast skin; and menopause.
There is no way known at this time to completely prevent the, changes to the breast and body which result from menopause. As usual, we fall back on to the practice of healthy lifestyles. Eat less and eat smaller portions. Eat healthily, showing a preference to grains, fruits, legumes and low glycaemic index carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Keep well hydrated by drinking at least six glasses a day of clean water to keep your skin plump and healthy. Exercise at least three times a week and lose excess weight slowly over time so as to prevent additional skin changes with stretch marks and breast sag. Quit smoking if you participate in this habit. Wear sunscreen over all areas of the body exposed to sunlight during the daytime, including the upper breast region, and get regular and adequate sleep.
Invest some funds in designer brassieres, contoured for larger breasts, which have comfortable shoulder straps and which will hold the breasts up high. Wear sports bras more often. Sports bras hold the breasts high up against the chest wall and also tend to make the breasts look flatter and smaller. Wear a bra even when at home to help prevent breast sag.
The alternative to these suggestions is a breast-reduction procedure, which is usually performed by a plastic surgeon. Usually, there are really beautiful outcomes, but the procedure is expensive.