Breast cancer is very rare in teenagers. One in every 231 women under the age of 40 gets breast cancer, but almost all of those women are at least thirty years old.
Even though teens hardly ever get breast cancer, it’s a good idea to learn about your breasts and how to check for any signs of problems. If you ever do get breast cancer, finding it early can make all the difference.
Once your breasts start to develop, you should have a breast exam by a doctor every year or two (experts don’t quite agree on how often you need one, but you should probably get one at least every other year). It can be kind of embarrassing to have a doctor examine your breasts, but believe me, it’s no big deal to the doctor. It only takes a couple of minutes and it can save your life, so it’s worth it.
You should also examine your own breasts once a month for any changes or signs of breast cancer or other problems. This is called breast self exam or BSE for short. Try to do it shortly after you have your period, since it’s common for breasts to get a bit swollen and sore just before or during your period.
Breast self-exam is really easy and only takes a few minutes. Here’s how to do it:
Look in the mirror. First stand with your arms at your sides, then raise your arms above your head. If you’re in your teens, your breasts are probably growing and changing. Look for any big changes, not just in size but also in color and shape. Look for changes in your nipples, too.
Gently squeeze each nipple and check for any kind of discharge.
Feel each breast for any lumps or other changes. Some women do this part when they’re in the shower, but you can also do it while you’re standing in front of the mirror or when you’re sitting down. Use your right hand to feel your left breast and your left hand to feel your right breast. Press firmly. Start at the nipple and work your way toward the edge of your breast, moving in bigger and bigger circles until you’ve covered your whole breast. Feel for lumps or anything that just feels different than it felt the last time you checked.
Now lie down and do the same thing you just did in step three.
Now, pay attention to this part. If you find a lump or have some nipple discharge or something about your breasts seems different, it does NOT mean you have breast cancer. Don’t panic. You’ll want to get it checked out by a doctor just to make sure, but there are lots of other things that could be causing those symptoms. Especially when you’re a teenager, your changing hormones can cause lumps and other changes in your breasts. It’s also normal for your breasts to feel tender or sore sometimes.
If you want to learn more about breast cancer, check out this website or ask your doctor.