It is important that you learn early about being your best advocate. Learning about breast health shouldn’t be scary; it should empower you to:
- Understand what is normal for you, and your body;
- Know the facts about your family history;
- Make healthy decisions when it comes to your lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, doing regular breast self exams); and
- Educate your peers about being their own best advocates too!
Imagine this – if you’re armed with education and facts, you can speak up and make a difference – in your life and the lives of the people you love. You’re on the path of the fearless warrior!
What you should know
Your breasts begin growing when you begin puberty. In most girls, this happens around age 9 or 10 years old. Some girls develop breasts earlier or later than that age. You have your own “clock” that your body follows. The time when your breasts begin to develop may depend on certain characteristics that are passed down from your family members or may be impacted by weight, stress, exercise, nutrition, or illness.
Normal breasts come in different shapes and sizes. Some girls have bumps or hair around the nipples. This is normal. If there is anything that concerns you about your breast, you should speak with your parent, or someone you trust.
Know your body
When your breasts are developing, you may feel lumps. These usually disappear on their own. If your lump is sore to the touch or if it appears to be getting bigger or you’re concerned about it, talk to your pediatrician or general practioner. You can also speak with a family member or a school nurse, and request a female nurse or doctor if that makes you feel more comfortable. The nurse or doctor will examine you and let you know if there is anything to be concerned about.
Sometimes you may have some pain in your breasts. This pain can be a mild, or it can be sharp, stabbing or burning. The pain may be affected by changing hormone level such as around the time of your period. If this pain worries you, speak to your healthcare provider.
It is important to know your body. It’s not likely that you’ll get breast cancer at a young age, but it’s important to know your body, so that when and if an abnormality occurs, you’re ready to take the right steps to being your best advocate and making “right for you” decisions.
Also, most women with breast cancer have a high chance of survival is the cancer is detected and treated early. One way to ensure that you catch any abnormal growth early is to perform self-examinations of your breasts regularly. Starting this habit at a young age will help you know what a healthy breast feels like, and this will help you notice abnormalities faster and easier. You can learn how to perform breast self-examinations here. Talk to your parent(s) and go see your doctor right away if you find a lump in your breast or notice any of these symptoms: dimpling, rash or itching, nipple discharge, lumps in/on breast or underarm area. Also, you should trust your instincts. If you are uncomfortable with what your provider says, have a loved one arrange a second opinion.
As a teenage girl, you may want to know about your chances of getting breast cancer. Or you may want to know more about breast cancer because you know someone who has it – such as a family member or a friend. Or you may want to learn understand how to reduce the chance of getting breast cancer and learn how to check for it. Again, it is rare for a teenager to develop breast cancer, but knowledge is power!
How to Do A Breast Self Exam
Regular breast self examinations are an important key to being your best advocate.
- Look at your breast in the mirror. It is important to know how your breast look and feel. Doing regular self examinations helps you to get familiar with the size, color, shape and “feel” of your breasts. important changes to look for are: dimpling, puckering, redness, soreness, fluid/discharge, rash or swelling.
- Raise your arms and see if you detect any of the changes above.
- Lay down and feel your breasts. Use your left hand to check your right breast and your right hand to check your left breast. Firmly, apply the pads of your fingers, keeping them flat and in a circular motion, examine your entire breast. Go from side to side then top to bottom. Go from your collarbone to where you abdomen starts, then your cleavage to your armpits. Make sure you choose a pattern to make sure you cover the entire breast.
- Repeat the same steps when standing or sitting.
Contact your doctor if you feel any of the following:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Change in the shape/size of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of skin
- Nipple discharge
- Persistent pain
Reducing your risk
You can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer by: maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, eating healthy food, not drinking alcohol, lowering exposure to environmental chemicals and toxins, and minimizing exposure to radiation to the chest and face.
Early Detection and treatment
Remember – it is not typical to get breast cancer in your teens. We are providing you this information because knowledge is power and you can make the difference in the life of a friend, family or someone you love, so here’s what you should know. Although we don’t know what causes breast cancer, through early detection and treatment, women can significantly increase their chances of surviving breast cancer. In fact, 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive if their breast cancer is found at an early stage. This is why early detection is key and why it’s important to learn about their breast health early on.
To learn more about breast health, how you can educate your peers and empower them to become their best advocates, you can join the Peer Education Through Awareness and Leadership (PETALS) program. This educational program teaches young women about their breast health and about conducting breast self-examinations. It also empowers then through lessons on prevention, wellness and body care.
To build a community of your peers who choose to change the way they think and live, who ask the right questions, speak up about their health, educate physicians and become community activists who help to decrease health disparities, we need you. You can make a difference and use your voice. Become a volunteer with Tigerlily Foundation.