Breast Effects of Contraceptive Methods

When making a contraceptive choice everyone has a set of important factors. Women will come in and say: I want the choice that is least likely to make me have periods, or they will say I want the choice that is least likely to make me gain weight or be moody, others will talk about how soon they want to minimize risks of ovarian cancer. And realistically, the choice of best contraceptive method is individual, and is best made with the help of your gyno. Among the most important of questions and  most common questions we face is whether the breast will be effected. The risk of breast cancer often is talked about but other breast effects from all the hormonal methods: such as the production of breast pain, the treatment of breast pain, the size effect on your breast of the hormones, the production of breast discharge or milk, the effects on FCBC and effects on breast sensitivity and nipple sensitivity, skin color changes, are also important potential effects of contraceptives. All hormones can produce new breast pain, but DepoProvera, Nexplanon, Mirena users have a low rate of new breast pain: about 3% of patients report this with Depo and slightly lower for the other two progesterone only methods. The hormone estrogen stimulates the breast tissue, and that can lead to increased growth and tenderness. So more estrogen in the pill theoretically would increase breast size, but less hormone, like the 10 or 20 mcg pills would be less likely to cause breast tenderness. For women seeking to treat breast pain, we give similar advice. B
reast pain is lessened with lower estrogen dosage, and with the newest progesterones, also there is more breast pain during hormone-free intervals. So consider using longer cycle pills when you want to treat breast pain. Breast cancer rates and the rates from the use of the birth control pill probably don't change, or don't change much. One study looking at over 50 other studies showed lots of conflicting information regarding breast cancer and birth control pill use. New diagnosis increases very slightly for women on the pill, but after pill use, the rates of breast cancer for pill users is no different than for women who didn't use the pill.  Skin pigmentation issues are common with hormonal methods, and in fact there can be a darkening of the nipples from hormonal contraception. Breast cysts are a bit less likely if you are on birth control. And in fact some women can have success in treating breast cysts with the right contraceptive method. Whether you need a pap, or are changing your contraception, it's a good thing to spend time with your gyno discussing breast heath concerns at your visit this year!

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