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September’s got us feeling all nostalgic about school. But we’re not talking about getting to know your times tables, we’re here to get you clued up on all things boobs. It’s as easy as…. well, you know the rest.
Armpit and Collarbones
Your breast tissue runs all the way from your collarbones to your armpits, so make sure you spend some time getting to know all your bits (not just the area you think of as your ‘boob’).
BRCA 1 & 2
We all carry certain genes that are normally protective against cancer – they correct any DNA damage that naturally occurs when cells divide. Inheriting faulty versions or “variants” of these genes significantly raises your risk of developing cancer, because the altered genes cannot repair the damaged cells, which can build up and form a tumour. Sometimes referred to as the “Angelina Jolie Gene” BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two examples of genes that raise your cancer risk if they become altered.
Change in size or shape…
Having one boob bigger than the other is totally fine if that’s normal for you. In fact, pretty much everyone is a little lopsided because we are human and imperfect and wonderful. But if you notice a sudden, unusual change in the size or shape of your boob(s), get it checked out.
Breast cancer doesn’t always appear as a lump, so it’s important to be aware of all of the signs and symptoms, including skin dimpling. If you notice unusual puckering or “orange peel” skin on your boobs, get it checked out by a GP
Early detection saves lives, so tell your GP as soon as possible if you notice an unusual change to your boobs or pecs. Whilst most changes will not be anything to worry about, if your symptom does turn out to be a sign of cancer, early diagnosis means better treatments and the best possible chance of survival. And that can only be a good thing.
Fibroadenoma is a medical term that describes a range of non-cancerous breast lumps that often affect women in their twenties. They might feel firm, smooth, rubbery or hard and tend to be painless and move easily under the skin (which is why they are also sometimes known as a ‘breast mouse’). If you’re concerned about any lumps in your boobs, we’d recommend seeing your GP.
Guys, gals and non-binary pals
Boob checking isn’t just for people who identify as female. 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, so whether you’re a guy, gal or non-binary pal, getting to know your body could save your life.
Your boobs will change throughout your life and if you’ve ever experienced the phenenomon of sudden pre-period boob growth, you’ll know they can change every month too. It’s natural to experience things like swelling or breast pain that settles down after your period has ended, but if you find your symptoms persist, book an appointment with your GP.
If in doubt, get it checked out
The majority of breast changes will not be cancer, but if you’ve noticed anything unusual or worrying about your boobs, we’d always recommend seeing your doctor to get a second opinion. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the more easy it is to treat and the higher the rates of survival for patients. Simple as that.
Just do it your way
Whilst there is some guidance to help make boob-checking easier (see the rest of our A-Z), when it comes to having a check, you can use just about any method you’re comfortable with. This could be lying down in bed, standing in front of the mirror getting dressed, mid-shower or when you’re on the bus to work (or all/none of the above). Whatever you do, just do it your way.
Know your normal
If we had a pound for every time someone asked what a normal boob felt like, we’d probably have to put our fundraising team into early retirement. The truth is, there is no single way boobs should look or feel (like us, they are all unique and precious snowflakes). In other words, getting to know what’s normal for you is the only way you’re going to be able to spot something unusual. Better get started.
Look and feel
Knowing your boobs is about knowing how they look as well as how they feel. A lump isn’t the only sign of breast cancer and some symptoms are ones you wouldn’t notice just by feeling your boobs, so it is important to have a good look and see your doctor if you notice unusual swelling, a rash or change to your skin texture or your nipple doing something it doesn’t do normally. In other words, keep your eyes on the prize. And if you find it hard to remember, you can always have it tattooed on your hands.
There’s a lot of information out there about breast cancer risk factors, and not all of it is true. So be smart and make sure you are looking at trusted sources, such as NHS Choices, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care and Public Health England. We understand there are lots of confusing messages out there, make sure you don’t believe everything you read and panic.
Nipples come in all shapes and sizes. Bumpy, flat, inverted, hairy, big, small and the rest. But if you notice an unusual change to yours (like your nipple pulling in when it’s normally out, a rash or a strange discharge from your nip) get it checked out by your doctor.
(Do it) Often
How often should you check your boobs or pecs? A regular check (about once a month, more if you want to) will help you get to know what is normal for you. And if you need a reminder, text BOOBS to 70300 and we’ll send you a free message on the first of each month.
Pregnancy & breastfeeding
An increase in hormones during pregnancy and breastfeeding means boobs change A LOT and benign (not cancerous) lumps can become more common. However, it’s important to continue having a regular look and feel of your boobs and speak to your midwife or GP if you’re unsure about any changes. Simple as that.
Boobs and pecs come in all shapes and sizes and each person’s pair will be a little different to the next. They can be big, small, pointy, saggy or flat, they might have nipples that point in different directions or hairs that sprout around them, you might have one boob, two boobs, no boobs or implants. Get to know your unique chest and all its (wonderful) quirks, and don’t be afraid to see a GP if you notice that something has changed.
Giving your boobs a regular once over is the best way to get to know how normally they look and feel, but you lot are busy people, and we know it’s easy to forget. So head to this page and find out about all the ways we can help you make it a habit.
Secondary Breast Cancer
Secondary (or metastatic) breast cancer is a cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, bones or lungs. The cancer is not curable at this point, but may be controlled with treatment for some years. Our founder Kris and many of our Boobettes live with secondary cancer, and use their stories to inspire others to get to know their boobs and bodies.
The first rule of boob checking is… there are no rules. You don’t need a doctor or special powers to check your boobs (although boob super powers sound pretty cool). All you need is to get hands on, have a look and Trust Your Touch. Simple.
Guess what?! Having uneven sized boobs can be perfectly natural. The truth is, pretty much everyone is a little lopsided because we are human and imperfect and fabulous. But if you notice a sudden, unusual change in the size or shape of your boob(s), get it checked out.
Our vision is to live in a world where all breast cancers are diagnosed at the earliest stage possible, when treatments are more effective and survival rates are higher. Or to put it simply, we want to be out of a job. (When that happens, someone hire us, please).
What to do if you notice something unusual
1) Don’t panic. Most breast changes will not be cancer.
2) Keep an eye on it for a few days to see if it settles or changes.
3) If the symptom persists, make an appointment to see your GP.
4) If you’re nervous about this you can bring a friend, request a GP of a specific gender or ask for a chaperone from the practice
5) Last but not least, give yourself a pat on the back for being so proactive about your health. You’ve made a good decision.
A mammogram is a type of X-ray designed to screen for breast cancer. In the UK the NHS invite women between the ages of 50-70 for a mammogram every three years. But whatever your age, it’s important that you regularly check your boobs and get to know your normal. (Also, this isn’t how they do mammograms, sorry).
Are you strong? Are you a Kelly Clarkson song? Have you got this? Is your body fabulous and worthy of your care and attention? The answer is YASSSSSS to all of the above – Jonathan Van Ness said so.
Aka. the number of breast cancer charities that existed for young people in the UK before Kris & Maren set up CoppaFeel! in 2009. In the last nine years we’ve talked to lots of young people about their boobs and pecs in a bid to help them get to know their bodies and have the best chance of early detection. We’re proud to have shifted the narrative around breast cancer, and we hope to continue to change the way people think about this disease. So WATCH THIS SPACE.
We’ll be posting a new entry every school day, so stay tuned for the rest, or scroll down and check us out on Instagram.
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