Young women, teens encouraged to practice breast health care early

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At a younger age, women face a lower risk of breast cancer, but doctors encourage young women and teenagers to put best practices into place early.

Dr. Susan Mahany, who specializes in breast surgery at the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion, says that breast cancer is “an equal opportunity disease” that can strike at all ages.

To get familiar with their developing breast tissue, Dr. Mahany encourages teens to do checks by age 15 or 16.

“What a monthly breast exam does is it gets you familiar with your own breast tissue so that you can recognize if there’s a change,” she explained.

Dr. Mahany says she has helped treat one teenager suffering from breast cancer, but she did not perform surgery.

“She actually had breast cancer at age 17. She is now in her 50’s and doing well,” she said, adding that her patients have ranged in ages from early 20s to mid-90s.

Another breast health factor for teenagers to consider is breast abscesses from bacteria on the skin.

“It’s very important to make sure that your underclothes are clean that your bra is clean,” Dr. Mahany said. “If you’ve been out playing basketball or running track you don’t want to wear the same bra the next day.”

She says the type of bra matters too — and encourages staying away from those with underwire.

“A lot of women come into this clinic and they’re complaining of breast pain, and a lot of times it’s on the lateral aspect of their breasts, and when I examine them I see the indentation from the underwire bra,” Dr. Mahany explained. “That tells me that the bra is not the proper size.”

Dr. Mahany will continue sharing important breast health information with teen girls at “CUPcakes and Conversation” on Oct. 13. It’s a free event for teenagers ages 16 to 18 to hear from breast cancer survivors and gain valuable information on the importance of breast health.

Register by Friday, Oct. 5 and visit here for more information on the event.

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