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Do you know your ABCs? We’re not talking about getting to know your alphabet, we’re here to get young people clued up on all things boobs and pecs. The A-Z of Boob covers all the important information and need-to-know facts about breast cancer and knowing your normal. It’s as easy as…. well, you know the rest. If you’d also like to download the A-Z of Boob as posters, just click the button below.
When we say the word ‘boobs’ (you’ll notice we say it quite a lot) we’re talking about the area between your neck and your belly, which you might call your chest, pecs, or breasts. This is a guide for people of all genders, so whatever you call yours, read on.
Armpit and Collarbones
Your breast tissue runs all the way from your collarbones to your armpits, not just the part of your chest that you might think of as your ‘boobs’ or ‘pecs’. When you check, make sure to have a feel of the whole area.
BRCA 1 & 2
These are cell mutations which mean your risk of developing breast cancer is between 50-90% higher than someone without the gene. Less than 10% of breast cancers are caused by this genetic link, but if you are concerned about your history, have a chat with your GP.
Call Your Doctor
It’s really important to call your GP if you notice something unusual or have any questions or concerns. It might help to ask an adult for support, write down your concerns to share at the appointment, ask for a chaperone or friend to be with you, or request a particular GP, or gender of GP.
Dimples on the Skin
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 chest, we’d recommend getting it checked out by a GP.
Early Detection Saves Lives
Early detection saves lives, so speak to your GP if you notice any unusual changes to your chest or speak to a family member or friend for advice. Most changes are unlikely to be cancer but getting checked out quickly by a GP is really important.
Fibroadenomas are non-cancerous breast lumps more common in young people assigned female at birth. They are usually firm but smooth, mobile under the skin and can occasionally feel tender, especially before a period. If you’re ever concerned about any lumps, call 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. *Men refers to anyone assigned male at birth.
Research has shown that some cancers are preventable through lifestyle choices. Things that reduce your cancer risk include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and not drinking too much alcohol. And this reduces your risk of all cancers, not just breast cancer.
If in doubt, get it checked out
The majority of breast changes will not be cancer, but if you notice anything unusual or are worried about your chest, we’d recommend seeing your GP for a second opinion. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat – and the higher the rates of survival for patients.
Just do it your way
When it comes to checking your chest, there are no rules – you can use any method you’re comfortable with. This could be lying down in bed, standing in front of the mirror, mid-shower or when applying body lotion! Just make sure you do it regularly and get to know your normal.
Know your normal
There is no single way boobs or pecs should look or feel (like us, they are all unique). Our bodies constantly change while we develop – so getting to know what’s normal for you is the only way you’re going to be able to spot something unusual.
Look and feel
Checking your chest is about looking and feeling. Whilst symptoms like a lump might be found by touch, other symptoms of breast cancer might more likely be noticed by sight, such as changes to your nipple, an usual change in size or shape, or dimpling to the skin.
There is a lot of information out there about breast cancer risk factors, and not all of it is true. If you are ever concerned about any health headlines you see, head to the NHS website where they have a health news page that explains the science behind the headlines.
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 nipple) get it checked out by your doctor.
(Check Your Boobs) Often
How often should you coppafeel? 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, head to our website to order our handy shower sticker, and make checking a part of your normal routine.
Your boobs will change throughout your life and if you have periods you may notice recurring changes through your cycle. Swelling and breast pain can occur naturally before your period and should settle towards the end, but if your symptoms persist, book a doctor’s appointment.
Boobs & pecs come in all shapes and sizes. Big, small, pointy, uneven, saggy or flat, with nipples that point in different directions or hairs that sprout around them, each person’s will be a little different to the next. So get to know your chest and all it’s wonderful quirks.
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 breast cancer is a cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. The cancer is not curable but may be controlled with treatment. Our founder Kris and many in our community live with secondary cancer, using their stories to inspire others to get checking.
When it comes to checking, touch is vital (it’s why we named ourselves CoppaFeel!). You don’t need a doctor or special powers to check your boobs and pecs (although boob super powers sound pretty cool). All you need is to get hands on, have a look and trust your touch.
Having one boob or pec bigger than the other is A-OK if that’s what’s normal for you. In fact, most people are a little lopsided, because we are human and imperfect and great. But if you notice a sudden, unusual change in the size or shape of your boobs or pecs, get it checked out.
CoppaFeel! was set up with a vision 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. That means every young person checks their boobs regularly, and we’re out of a job.
What to do if you find something
If you notice something unusual, don’t panic. Most breast changes will not be cancer. Keep an eye on it for a few days to see if it settles or changes, if the symptom persists make an appointment to see your GP. Then give yourself a pat on the back for getting checked out!
A mammogram is an x-ray that screens for breast cancer. In the UK, the NHS routinely invite older women for mammograms, as the risk increases with age and these scans are less effective on young, denser, breast tissue. That means, whatever your age, checking yourself is vital.
Young People Can Be Affected
Regardless of your age, it’s really important to get to know your boobs or pecs as most breast cancers are found by people noticing unusual changes and contacting their GP. So start checking now and make it part of your routine, because one day it could save your life.
Our charity was founded in 2009 by twin sisters Kris and Maren Hallenga, after Kris’ late diagnosis with incurable breast cancer, aged 23. Before CoppaFeel!, there were zero breast cancer charities for young people in the UK, but we changed that.
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Knowing your boobs could save your life, so sign up for one of our regular reminders to check your boobs.