Breast Cancer

Although young women should show their doctors any lump that does not disappear within a few days, they don’t need to worry very much about breast cancer. It’s a scary and serious disease–one that affects one in eight women over the course of their lifetime–but it is extremely rare among teenagers.

If your mother, sister or daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer, however, you are at a higher risk of being diagnosed yourself when you get older.

Smoking, drinking and consuming a diet high in animal fat content also increases the risk.

Women under 40 aren’t advised to receive regular mammograms (a special x-ray), but it is a good idea to have your nurse or doctor check out your breasts annually after you hit the age of 20.

You should also get in the habit of giving yourself a monthly self-exam.

White, non-Hispanic women report the highest incidence of breast cancer in the U.S., but African-American women are more likely to die from it than any other racial/ethnic group. Also, the older you are, the more likely you are to get breast cancer.

There are a number of ways to treat breast cancer, ranging from hormone therapy to chemotherapy (a drug therapy designed to kill cancer cells or slow their growth) to radiation–and in extreme cases, partial or total removal of the breast and surrounding tissues (lumpectomies and mastectomies, respectively).

Men can also develop breast cancer, although it’s relatively rare. It’s expected that 1,500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.


Breast cancer, though not a big concern to teenagers, is a prospect that adult women need to be aware of. There are all sorts of studies linking breast cancer with heredity, diet, hormonal imbalances and lifestyle.

New treatments and medical breakthroughs hold some promise in eventually defeating this disease, but nothing beats early detection. That’s why your first line of defense against breast cancer is monthly self-examination. You can start as soon as your breasts are fully developed.

Breast self-exams should be done at the same time of the month every month, right after your period ends, when the breasts are neither tender nor swollen.

1. Lie down on your back; put your right arm over your head and a pillow under your right shoulder.

2. With the three middle fingers of your left hand, feel for lumps or thickened tissue in your right breast, using a firm circular motion radiating out from the nipple. Press hard enough to familiarize yourself with how your breast feels, but not so hard that it hurts.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for your left breast.

4. Standing and looking in a mirror, check your breasts for any surface anomalies like puckering, dimpling or swelling. Do this with your arms at your sides, with them stretched above your head, and with your hands on your hips while flexing your chest muscles. diet, hormonal imbalances a


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