When I was about 21, I felt a hard place at the top of my right breast. Of course, I started worrying that I might have breast cancer, but I was too scared to call the doctor about it. But when I went for my next check-up, I told him I found a lump. He felt it and said, “That’s not a lump. That’s your muscle.”
“But it’s on just one side.”
“You're right-handed,” he said, “so your muscle is more developed on that side.”
I felt like a fool, and my doctor’s attitude didn’t help. He acted like I should know the difference between a muscle and a lump, but how would I know? No one had ever explained to me what lumps feel like and what I should be looking for. My doctor should have praised me for noticing the difference between my breasts. Instead his attitude made me feel afraid to ask doctors questions for years.
Here at HealthCentral, we get many questions from teenagers. Teenagers almost never get breast cancer, but between typical breast growth and non-cancerous breast problems, they have lots of questions about what’s normal. The questions tend to fall into four main categories: size, pain, skin, and lumps.
My breasts are different sizes. Should I be worried? Many women have breasts that are different sizes, sometimes as much as a full cup different. During puberty this is especially common because breasts often don’t grow evenly. It’s nothing to worry about.
My breasts hurt. Could this be breast cancer? Breasts can have growing pains, just like legs. The growth stretches the skin and other tissues causing pain, and because breasts don’t always grow evenly, sometimes only one breast hurts.
Another normal reason for pain is called cyclical breast pain. Many women have breast pain and tenderness, especially before their periods. If you have breast pain, notice when it happens. If it goes away after your period, it is just part of your normal cycle.
A painful spot on your breast could be a sign of an infection, especially if the skin is red. Although this isn’t common in teenagers, it can happen. Home remedies probably won’t help, so see a doctor.
Breast tenderness can also be an early sign of pregnancy, so if there is a possibility that you might be pregnant, you’ll need to see a doctor or midwife. She can put you on special prenatal vitamins and do other checks to make sure you and your baby stay healthy.
The skin on my breast is red, itchy, scaly, or dry. What should I do? There are many possible causes for changes in the skin on your breast. Some you can take care of on your own, and some will require a doctor’s assistance. You can read detailed information about skin rashes common in the breast at this link, but here are a few tips.