Why and How You Should Encourage Your Teen to Do Breast Self-Exams

mother talking to teen girl
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It is rare for teen girls to develop breast cancer. What's more, when girls are still growing and developing, their breasts will change a great deal. Still, it is a good idea to teach your teen daughter how to do a breast self-exam and encourage her to do one monthly.

How to Introduce Breast Self Exams

Let your daughter know that breast self-exams are one important way to avoid facing advanced breast cancer.

By doing self-exams, she will get a good sense of what her breasts normally feel like, so that she can identify a new, unusual, or painful lump.  It will also help her to identify normal monthly changes in her breasts, making it easier to notice unusual tenderness or a possible inflammation. 

Show your daughter how a self-exam should be done. If necessary, conduct the exam on yourself while you're fully clothed. Show her how to use her fingertips to feel her breast in expanding circles starting at the nipple. Remind your daughter that small bumps and lumps are normal; she's feeling for changes. Mention that any kind of discharge from the nipple or lump under the arm may be cause for concern and should be noted.

Why Parental Encouragement Matters

While you may want to wait until your daughter visits a gynecologist to get started with breast self-exams, here are three reasons why your encouragement is essential.

  1. Monthly breast self-exams will help your daughter develop a healthy habit. She may be at low risk for breast cancer now but her risk will go up with age. If you have helped her develop a healthy monthly habit now, she will continue it throughout her adult life. Women who do monthly checks catch abnormalities early. Statistics show that the earlier you catch breast cancer, the greater your chance of survival.
  1. Self-breast exams allow your daughter to become comfortable with her body. Teens tend to steer away from "touching themselves" after the big change of puberty hits. While this attitude is natural and understandable, it’s not healthy. Encouraging breast exams may, over time, change this attitude in your daughter. She will begin to know her body and be able to notice changes as they occur.
  2. Encouraging breast self-exams will open the lines of communication between you and your daughter when discussing physical health. For teens, becoming open and discussing their changing bodies and hormones can take as long as it took for their bodies to change -- years! But, when a parent is open to talking about breast self-exams, it says that the parent is open to talking about other physical and sexual issues. Your teen will trust that and may come to you later with their questions.

Monthly breast self-exams are a healthy habit to follow. If you aren’t in the habit, start now. One of the best ways to promote healthy behavior to your kids is by adopting it yourself first. 

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