Every October, people put on their pink and remind us to take care of our tatas. With breast cancer being the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women (ultimately affecting 1 in 8 over a lifetime), far-reaching campaigns are important in raising awareness and raising money to support finding a cure. However, as breast cancer awareness has increased, so has anxiety about breast cancer - especially among young girls.
One of the most popular articles on our website is “What to Expect when Your Breasts Bud.” It explains that puberty often starts with breast buds, which are small knots that arise under the nipple and areola — sometimes on one side well before the other. We specifically provide reassurance that these new and tender knots, occurring in girls ages 7-12 are not cancer, but they signal normal development. And the most common comments on that blog, from girls and mothers alike, express relief to know that those knots are breast buds and not worrisome for cancer.
Similarly, in our live programs, when we discuss breast buds and provide reassurance that they are nothing to worry about, we can see many girls and moms look at each other and smile with relief.
So as we talk about breast cancer awareness and strategies for prevention, let’s remember to talk about normal development and what’s NOT cancer, so our daughters’ can stop worrying about it for now.
If you want to start promoting healthy habits to reduce her risk for breast (and other) cancers in the future, you can encourage her to do these things:
- Stay active
- Don’t start smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get comfy with how your breasts look and feel
For moms: here are current recommendations for YOUR* breast health
Breast Examinations: Your healthcare provider should perform a clinical breast exam every 1-3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at 40.
Self Awareness: The monthly breast self-exam (BSE) is out, but breast self awareness is in. Why? Women were so good and diligent about checking their breasts that there was an increase in “false alarms” that resulted in unnecessary biopsies and surgeries (and worry!). Instead, The American Cancer Society and other professional organizations devoted to women’s health now recommend breast self awareness, which is knowing how your breasts normally look and feel. That definitely involves feeling your breasts occasionally and observing for changes in the shape, color or texture on the breast, nipples or areolas.
Get your mammogram: For most women, your first mammogram should be sometime between age 40-50 and every 1-2 years after that. This is a decision that should be made individually with your doctor based on your health history, family history, and personal concern.
Know your family history: If multiple women in your immediate family (grandparent, parent, siblings) have had premenopausal breast cancer, you should talk with your provider about genetics testing. If your family carries a genetic mutation like BRCA, you should consider genetic testing, but should make that decision in consultation with a genetics counselor or your provider to understand the full implications of the information you might receive. A woman with a known genetic risk for breast cancer should have much closer monitoring including earlier mammograms, breast MRI, and more frequent examinations.
Live a healthy lifestyle: Maintain a healthy weight. Breast cancer is 1.5 times more common in overweight women and 2 times higher in obese women.Stay active. Women who exercise regularly, reduce their risk by 10-25%Don’t smoke. And if you do, stop.Drink responsibly. Women who drink more than about 2-3 drinks daily have a 20% higher risk.
*If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, a history of radiation to the chest, or have had past breast biopsies, you may need closer monitoring— please talk with your doctor.