Understanding the normal breast
Before we list out the tests for diagnosis (detection) of breast cancer, it is essential to understand the 'normal' breast. There is no such thing as a 'standard' breast. The variation in size of breasts in different women is due to different proportions of fatty and glandular tissue. What is normal for one woman may not be for another. Throughout your life your breasts will change; these are due to hormonal changes taking place in every women's monthly cycle. Below are some descriptions of a normal breast at different stages of your life:
Reproductive period till menopause: Normal breasts feel different at different times of the month. The milk-producing tissue in the breast becomes active in the days before a period starts. In some women, the breasts at this time feel tender and lumpy, especially near the armpits.
Post menopausal: Activity in the milk-producing tissue stops. Breasts normally feel soft, less firm and not lumpy. The breasts sag down due to decrease in mild producing glandular tissue and increase in fatty tissue.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Some women have to resort to hormone replacement therapy after menopause due to post menopausal symptoms. As a result of the hormones, the milk producing tissue in breasts remain active. Hence the breasts appear dense on mammograms.