Having the Talk -- About Breasts, That Is
Young Girls Want Their Moms to Talk to Them About Breast Health, Breast Cancer
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 15, 2009 (San Antonio) -- Attention, moms! Your young daughters want to
know more about normal breast development and breast cancer -- and they'd like
to hear it from you.
A survey of more than 3,000 girls aged 8-18 suggests their breast
development and breast cancer are "a big source of anxiety," says Marisa Weiss,
MD, president and founder of Breastcancer.org.
Nearly half wanted to participate in an assembly with their mothers to learn
more about these topics, but 50% also indicated they were uneasy bringing up
breast health and breast cancer with their mothers, the survey shows.
Nearly all of the mothers said they'd like to answer their daughter's
questions, the survey shows, but most thought they should wait for their
daughter to ask.
Don't, Weiss urges. It's up to moms to start the dialogue, she says.
1 in 4 Young Girls Worries She Has Breast Cancer
The findings build on a 2008 Breastcancer.org online survey showing that 26%
of girls worry they may have breast cancer and 73% have a relative or close
acquaintance with the disease.
"Puberty is occurring at younger and younger ages, with breast development
starting at age 7, 8, 9. The changes are happening so fast that many young
girls don't know what's happening to them and if it's normal," Weiss tells
Add to that the fact that most people know someone who has had breast cancer
and you have a recipe for anxiety, she says.
"Girls are examining their breasts anyway, and they don’t know if each
change is normal [or if it could signal cancer]," Weiss says. "They can't
distinguish between what's relevant and what's not."
Among the topics that should be discussed, Weiss says, are normal breast
development, nipple hair, breast size, how to wear a bra, and how to handle
The girls and their moms offered many tips on how to start and maintain a
healthy dialogue on these topics, Weiss says.
"Don't be overly reassuring," she tells moms. "Answer each question
truthfully and ask your doctor if you don't know."
Also she suggests "making it fun. Take a trip to the mall to buy your
daughter a bra and talk in the car on the way there and back," she says.
Other tips: Be open, chose a private place and time, and share experiences,
Less Than Half of Girls Talk About Breast Health With Their Moms
The new study involved 3,397 girls in middle and high schools who filled out
an online survey prior to attending an in-school "Basic Breast Health Assembly
Program" in 13 Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, and Los Angeles
schools. A total of 1,067 adult female family members, mostly mothers,
also completed a survey.
Among the findings, presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer
- 33% of girls had already learned about breast health and breast cancer in
- 48% of girls wanted to attend the assembly program, and 93% of the adult
female family members wanted their girls to participate.
- 97% of the adults said they felt comfortable starting a conversation about
breast health and breast cancer with their daughters, but only 43% of the girls
report having the conversation.
- Of the girls who talked to a parent, only 1% talked with their
- 42% of girls said they have talked to a doctor about breast health. A total
of 18% said they'd talked to a sister and 23% talked with a friend.