Let’s take breast cancer prevention up a notch!

By  13 Comments

 Join The Girls’ “get-to-know-our-boobs” Revolution –  it’s time to “talk boobs.”

MOMS – Do you think your daughter is too young to worry about something as scary as breast cancer? Think again!  Women, yes even young women, are dying every day because our breasts, especially our nipples, are a “taboo” (sexualized, hush-hush) topic, and so we are too embarrassed to really get to know them or to talk about our concerns if we have any.  They are like a “don’t touch” area.

In this day and age breasts have become almost pornographic – and it’s killing women. It isn’t doing babies much good either. Even most pink ribbon Breast Cancer prevention campaigns photos show plenty of pretty ribbons – but NO BOOBS.

Young people DO get breast cancer!!!  Even young people with a healthy lifestyle and no family history of breast cancer can contract the disease. For some reason, breast cancer is striking women at younger and younger ages, the world over.

Girls as young as 10-year-old Hannah are being diagnosed with breast cancer. She had an itchy spot on her chest that wouldn’t go away, but she put off telling her mother because she was embarrassed.

Web MD’s Dr. McAndrew tells us the youngest patient he had seen was 18 when she felt the mass, and 22 by the time she finally diagnosed with breast cancer. She kept telling doctors that she felt something and was worried about it, but they dismissed it because she was ‘too young.’

Embarrassed – In many places, our breasts are no longer are even considered proper vehicles to feed our children.  Think about how badly many people react to a woman nursing her infant at the mall – as though she were copulating in public!  They shame her, demand she cover up or go to the restroom; they look away, red-faced. Women are even under pressure to wean their babies early or not to nurse at all, even though breast milk is the absolutely best and safest food for infants, because it’s, well, just too sexual for some people.

Adolescent Girl with Head in HandsAs moms we are often embarrassed to talk honestly to our daughters about having breasts, what to expect as they develop, about the benefits and joys of breastfeeding our babies, about boobs and sex.  Often boobs don’t even enter into the “birds and the bees” talk.

Given these attitudes, do you think young women are embarrassed about “feeling their breasts up?”  About perhaps putting a name to how their breasts FEEL, other than big or small?  Although more and more young women are rebelling and reclaiming their bodies, including their breasts, from a prudish public, YES, most girls are embarrassed!

Every woman I know, old and young, wants to be sexy and have the “perfect figure,” and whatever that means to you, it almost always includes a set of nice-looking boobs. The thing is, we equate “nice-looking” to SIZE.  BIG.  Can you think of another attribute to your breasts?

It turns out that breast self-examinations by themselves are not very effective in catching breast cancer early.  Current scientific thinking is that it’s more important to really KNOW your breasts through and through.

What do your boobs FEEL like and LOOK like when they are normal?  Did you know everyone’s are different? Most women never look at other women’s breasts in the locker room.

The founder of youth-friendly breast cancer prevention site Coppafeel, Kristin Hallenga, was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer at age 23!  She has one tumor in her breast and another on her spine.  Her doctors had poo-pooed her concerns, and  by the time someone finally took her seriously, the cancer had spread to her spine.

She founded the Coppafeel site and the #what normal feels like campaign because she wanted to make sure other young women could take better care of themselves.  She had not advocated strongly enough with her doctors when she voiced her concerns. They didn’t believe someone so young could have the disease and so she was diagnosed very late – after the cancer had spread to her bones.

#whatnormalfeelslike is a campaign to encourage women and girls to really get to know their breasts to stamp out LATE stage detection of breast cancer.  Click on the link and scroll down to get a visual idea of what they mean.  You’ll see.

THE most important thing to know for early detection of breast cancer is – how do your boobs FEEL to you when they are normal?  Like jelly?  Like a beanbag?  Bouncy?  Spongy? After all, if you don’t know what they really feel like, how would you know if something changes?

You see – it’s not just a LUMP you are looking for.

Talk to your doctor if you notice

  1. A lump, of course,
  2. Changes in size of a breast,
  3. Ongoing pain,
  4. Swelling, redness and rashes in both the breast and armpit areas,
  5. Changes to the nipples,
  6. Nipple discharge or
  7. Inverted nipples.

Teach your girl about her breasts and encourage her to feel them often – and not just for lumps. Yes, it’s OK if it feels good. Hurrah!  Here is an assessment tool that can educate her about other protective factors to help prevent it, and without terrifying her, do let her know no one will notice something wrong before she does.

YOU – yes, you –  can help prevent breast cancer! 

Your own, of course, by getting to know your own breasts and being on the lookout for the 7 warning signs.

And you can help by spreading this message to young ladies everywhere:

“Coppa feel, my dear, and not just once a month. It feels good and it might just save your life.  Be aware of the warning signs and the risk and protective factors, be a fierce advocate for yourself with doctors, and please enjoy a happy, healthy life.”   

13 Comments

  1. Maggie Ryan-Dicera

    Absolutely. This is such a great article for young women to read. Breast cancer is not just something that effects older women. We need to educate our young ladies about breast health and wellness.

  2. Lisa

    There’s been a lot of cancer in my family, including two of my aunts and one of my cousins who had breast cancer, so this subject makes me nervous, but it’s so important to talk about. It’s really sad how much television, movies, and even advertising have sexualized breasts. It makes it hard for people to see them as a part of your body that needs to be taken care of when there’s so much flaunting going on and using them for pleasure. It’s time for things to change – women’s lives depend on it.

  3. Veronica

    Love the fact that you are letting your readers know about breast cancer. Many people see/feel something in their breast and they choose to keep quiet about it. Women have so many hormones going on in their bodies, It’s hard to tell whats normal and what isn’t. Knowing the signs can help make the process of having breast cancer go much smoother. For example, the sooner you catch it, the more treatable it will be.
    I like how you mention that young girls can also get it. Cancer doesn’t come with age; anyone can get that diagnosis. It’s important for all women to know the signs and symptoms, before It’s too late.

  4. Mary

    Poor young girls :( Moms need to open the line of communication with their daughters so that they feel comfortable coming to their mother if things with their body (ANY part of their body) is out of the ordinary. Moms can also lead by example by taking their daughter with them when she gets a mammogram or even just taking her bra shopping at a nice bra store and telling her daughter that her boobs are special and deserve to be healthy.
    Great article! Glad you’re getting this message out there.

  5. Sissy

    Very sage advice! I think the problem’s even deeper than embarrassment over breasts, but also a paradigm that devalues women in general. In turn, it demeans men as well, since it snuffs out individuality.

    I’ve worked with families that blame the boy for everything and coddle the girl, teaching her to be weak and whiny. On the other hand, and this was quite shocking to me when I first saw it, there are families that literally do not take their girls to the doctor. When their little boys have something minor, the boy goes to the ER no matter what time of day or night. When the little girls have quite exaggerated symptoms or illnesses, it’s written off. I knew one little girl who had stomach aches for four months before a doctor was consulted. After the appointment, the doctor’s advice was ignored for another four months. Even though the doctor had felt pressure in the intestinal area, the parents decided that the girl was faking until a babysitter intervened. She was only five years old, and spent almost one year in pain. In another incident with this same girl, a case of impetigo was ignored for several months and left huge marks that never went away. This particular family constantly pushes sex-role conditioning and makes sure that the little girl thinks she is weak and needs protection from her brothers. To me, this is the incubator for women to grow up to be dependent, abused, low in self-confidence, and naive enough to be taken advantage of by strangers and scammers.

    Educating these families can be tough. Fortunately, we have people like you who call out the basic assumptions that are inherent in a societal prejudice against both men and women — that there is a different requirement depending on your genitalia and that you can never escape from your role.

    Bless you for taking up the pen, which is mightier than the sword, and speaking up on behalf of girls who are too embarrassed to tell their own mothers when they feel something is wrong with their breasts. As you say, the little girls, themselves, are going to know FIRST if something feels a little “off.”

    By the way, mine are bouncy. I just want to break through the stigma of being afraid to acknowledge the normalcy of this body part.

  6. Librarylady

    I can’t believe I’ve never had this conversation with my daughter – she’s 24-years-old! Thank you for opening my eyes. We talk about everything under the sun, but not our breasts.
    It is so important that women, young and old feel comfortable with their bodies, and equally important that you’re getting the word out to the medical community. The story about the 10-year-old girl being dismissed as too young to have breast cancer made me cringe. Thanks for an interesting and well written article. I’ll go have that heart to heart with my daughter now.

  7. Amanda

    I think perhaps, when I was younger, I might have been too embarrassed to talk about my own developing breasts with my mother, but then again maybe not. But I definitely think that this topic needs to be advocated more, a lot more because mother’s aren’t explaining everything as they should.

    Not only do we need to talk about breasts, their size, what happens when you start developing them, as well as their role in sexual intimacy, but the health of them as well. We should make sure that we keep an eye on ourselves, so that we know when something is different or off.

    I am now 23, and I keep a close eye on myself because if I am going to get breast cancer, then I want to get it diagnosed early enough so that I can have a better chance at surviving it.

    In addition to this, Doctors SHOULD NOT dismiss anything just because a girl is too young… that’s ridiculous. Bodies form at different stages at different ages and anything is possible, even contracting breast cancer at a young age.

  8. Silvia

    Yes, it’s very true that even young girls should worry about cancer. There are many young girls out there suffering right now.

  9. Mandy Maytime

    Very true. My stepdaughter’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late twenties and has since undergone a double mastectomy. It’s very scary and that was the youngest person I’d known to be diagnosed but it really does happen. My daughter is a teen now and I do feel slightly embarrassed about talking about boobs but she is quite upfront so I hope she continues being open.

  10. Barbara

    Breast cancer is terrible. It is horrible that anyone gets this. And, for girls as young as ten to get it is also horrible. Those individuals have barely even begun to live! Only ten years on this earth! Terrible, terrible, terrible. To add, it is bad how people react to women who breastfeed their babies in public. I think that as long as the woman’s side that she breastfeeds on is covered, it is O.K.
    I will admit to breastfeeding my baby in the car. I also breastfed her in different family members’ homes (usually in a back room). However, I absolutely hated that there were no old school breast pumps that I could use so that I could pump breast milk, and put it into a baby bottle for my daughter. My mother had a good breast pump in the 1970’s. It reminded me of a bike horn.
    I knew that I should have kept that breast pump. I kept it as long as I could (until age 12) because I knew that someday I would be breastfeeding my own child. My mom finally threw it away and regretted it. My breasts were so big that they wouldn’t fit into anything.
    And, the breast pump that my mom used to have is no longer made anymore. I remember back in the 1980’s how it was a big deal for women of all ages to do self breast examinations. This was also taught in school.

    • Zaba

      Absolutely! Just found out a person close to me has bresat cancer. I and all my friends are doing the bresat cancer walk again this year! Hopefully this continues to raise the awareness of bresat cancer or any cancer for that matter!

  11. Nicola

    It wasn’t until recently that doctors even took notice of young women with breast issues. It was always thought that breast cancer was for the over 50’s. Now it’s a bit easier to get treatment for the breasts. It is very important to watch your breasts for lumps. If you find something you have to seek medical attention right away so it doesn’t spread. Most of the time it’s harmless but you have to be sure so get help right away. It’s disgusting how womens breasts have been sexualized to the point where feeding a child is considered to be offensive to some.

    • AgusTiinaa

      Breast cancer arenawess programs are everywhere but are they working and if they are working, do we need them anymore? This article explains why breast cancer arenawess programs might be self-limiting.

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