If you have breasts, then you've probably wondered if your boobs are healthy. From size, to shape, to symmetry, we've all pondered our boobs to one degree or another, even though it can get a bit overwhelming at times. But you know what? Boobs definitely deserve this much attention — especially since they play such a large role in our health.
So yes, while you don't want to be obsessing over how they look, necessarily, you should be eyeing them in the mirror. And yes, you should be checking them regularly for signs of breast cancer. In fact, "it's a good idea to perform self-exams once a month, preferably right after your period has ended," Dr. Pamela Marcus, a radiologist who specializes in women's imaging, tells Bustle. "That's when your breasts tend to be the least naturally lumpy and painful, and that way you get a sense for how your breasts feel at the same time in your cycle."
But again — and even though it can be difficult, at times — try not to waste too much time worrying about your shape and/or size. With so many breast shapes out there, it's safe to assume yours are a-OK. But, just to be sure, read on for some boob shapes that are perfectly healthy, as well as others that may indicate a health issue. If anything seems out of the ordinary, definitely talk to your doctor ASAP.
1. Tiny Boobs And Big Boobs
If you've been wondering if your boob size is typical — whether they're "too small" or "too big" — you're definitely not alone. But unless your doctor has expressed concern about an underlying health issue, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to size.
That said, "large breasts (greater than a D cup) can commonly cause neck and back pain," Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, family and emergency doctor, tells Bustle. "In addition some studies have found that larger bra sizes may be linked with breast cancer due to hormonal estrogen release. This is why it’s important to see your doctor regularly and get your routine mammograms because early detection usually leads to a better prognosis."
2. Varying Perkiness Levels
We've been conditioned over the years to think perky boobs are best, but that's certainly only a matter of opinion, and has nothing to do with actual health. As Marcus says, "Some are soft and heavy, others are firm and perky." And that's just the way it is.
But everyone, no matter how their boobs started off initially, will experience some decreases in perkiness as time goes on. "Over the course of a woman's life, breasts change and evolve," Dr. Norman M. Rowe, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon, tells Bustle. "Not only by events like childbearing, but through natural aging as well."
3. Boobs That Are Wide Apart
Typically, the boobs we see displayed in the media and in movies are lifted up and pushed together to create cleavage, so you might have preconceived ideas about the amount of space that "should" be between your boobs. But if yours are naturally further apart, that doesn't mean it's a bad thing.
"Some breasts are set wider, others are set close together — some breasts are even slightly asymmetrical," Marcus says. And none of those traits are anything you should worry about, especially in terms of health.
As Rowe says, "Everyone is unique, therefore everyone has different breasts, whether that be size, symmetry, shape, etc."
4. Cup Sizes That Don't Match
Most people's boobs aren't perfectly identical, so don't be concerned if one of your boobs has always been bigger than the other. As Mihye Choi, MD, an associate professor in the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU, tells Bustle, if yours don't match, you have what are called "asymmetrical" boobs.
In fact, just like eyebrows, many experts say boobs will always be more like sisters than twins, Rowe says. While some folks may have boobs that look fairly similar, it's also possible to have one boobs that's larger and one that's smaller.
5. Long, Thin Boobs
Since so many people think boobs have to be round, as well, which is why it may cause some concern if yours are bit longer or thinner instead. But this is yet another boob shape that exists in the world, that many people have.
"One variant I see as a plastic surgeon is the tuberous breast, similarly shaped to a potato, where the base of the breast is constricted," Dr. Joshua D. Zuckerman, MD, FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in New York, tells Bustle.
While it's not an unhealthy condition, he says many people with boobs talk with their doctors just to make sure. If the shape is bothering you, feel free to do the same and bring up any questions that are weighing on your mind.
6. Smaller Athletic Boobs
"Regarding breast shape, there is a tremendous degree of variability within what is considered healthy and normal," Zuckerman says. "Breasts can range from high and round, to small and athletic with more muscle." So if you're the owner of smaller boobs, or are mostly flat-chested, never fear.
"Breasts come in a variety of all shapes and sizes from small, to large and this is completely [OK]," Nesheiwat says. "Round, teardrop, tubular, droopy, asymmetrical, these are all completely normal variations as we are all unique in our genes and DNA resulting in different anatomical features."
7. Deflated Or Sagging Boobs
If you've recently lost weight, given birth, or breastfed, then you might have saggy boobs. As Zuckerman says, "Ptosis, or sag, can be more or less severe and comes in three grades depending on how low the nipple is placed." For some folks, the nipple will be at the lowest point of the breast mound.
And that's because boobs go through many stages in life. "In a woman's teens and early 20s, her breast will be majority breast tissue," Rowe says. "With aging, that breast tissue gets changed into fatty tissue. Fatty tissue does not have as much density to it. It is this phenomenon that most women perceive as their breasts sagging or deflating."
8. Nipples Of All Shapes And Sizes
As with boob size, there seems to be an endless list of nipple shapes and sizes, and most are considered healthy. "Nipples and areolae can also exhibit a wide degree of variability in position, diameter, and protuberance," Zuckerman says. Do yours stick out? Are they inverted? If so, know that you and your nipples are not alone.
You will, however, want to let a doctor know if you have any discharge from your nipple, Rowe says, adding "the best way to ensure your breasts are healthy is to be checked annually by your doctor, keep up with mammography, and perform self breast exams monthly."
9. Heavy Boobs
If your boobs feel extra heavy, you might be wondering what's up, or if they are too big. But remember, "shape alone doesn’t determine breast health," Rowe says. "Healthy breasts are breasts without disease."
But remember, you might experience other health problems due to large breasts, including back pain. Some troublesome symptoms that can stem from large boobs include shoulder pain and posture changes, neck and back pain, and even tingling in your arms and hands. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, let your doctor know.
10. Red Flag: A Lump In Your Breast
This should go without saying, but if you find or see a lump in your breast, definitely get it checked out. While it may be due to a perfectly typical hormonal fluctuation before your period, it could also be a sign of cancer. As Rowe says, "Sudden changes to the size or shape of the breast, skin changes to the breast or areola (ie. dimpling), or discharge from the nipple are all things you would want to discuss with your doctor."
You can stay on top of potential issues by monitoring your boobs often so that you can get familiar with what they feel like, and thus be better able to spot changes as soon as they occur. You can do this by checking your breasts regularly every month, as well as staying on top of checkups with your OB/GYN.
11. Red Flag: A Sudden Changes In Size Or Shape
As with your other body parts, it's important to note any other symptoms that seem out of the ordinary, especially since some breast-related changes can be a sign of cancer. "Other signs include one breast getting large compared to the other side, [or the] breast skin developing rash," Choi says. "A new nipple retraction or newly inverted nipple can be a sign of problem."
While it might feel weird to talk about your boobs with your doctor, it's always better to ask questions and be safe than sorry. Doctors have heard it all before, so whether you want to talk about shape, size, or a subtle change, don't feel like anything's off limits.
Dr. Pamela Marcus, radiologist who specializes in women's imaging
Dr. Norman M. Rowe, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon
Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, family and emergency doctor
Mihye Choi, MD, associate professor in the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU
Dr. Joshua D. Zuckerman, MD, FACS, board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in New York
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