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Boobs! an owner's guide. (Body).

Jugs. Hooters. Melons. Knockers. No matter what ya call 'em. we've all got breasts. Some are teeny; others humongo--but they can all be a mystery. We've gotcha covered when it comes to answering your biggest breast questions.

MY BREASTS HURT. WHY?

You've heard of growing pains, right? Well, quite simply, that's probably why your breasts hurt. You're at the age when there's a lot of developing going on with your breasts. And as they develop, they might be tender or sore. Breast pain can also be associated with the onset of menstruation. About a week before each period, the body produces hormones--estrogen and progesterone--that can trigger some side effects, like moodiness, cramps, headaches and bloating. "Before menstruation, breast pain is more exaggerated and tender because the hormones have made the breasts retain more fluid," says Ob/Gyn Dr. Adelaide G. Nardone. "They might even feel bigger and heavier, because they are.

i REALLY WANT TO WEAR A BRA. HOW CAN I ASK MY MOM iF iT'S OK?

We know how intimidating it can be to approach your mom about bra shopping, especially if mom still thinks of you as her "little girl." Some moms have a hard time facing the fact that their daughters are growing up and becoming young women. But the thing is, if you have breasts, you need a bra. The next time you're shopping at Limited Too or passing through the lingerie section of a department store, casually walk over to the bra section, and say, "Mom, do you think you could help me pick out a bra? I'm starting to feel uncomfortable not wearing one." If she says, "Yes," great! If she's hesitant or says, "No way," maybe you can ease her into the idea by talking her into letting you start Out with a sports bra. Pick up something in the athletic department that will fit nicely under your clothes.

i'M 13 AND FLAT. BUT ALL MY FRiENDS ALREADY HAVE BOORS. WHEN WiLL MINE GROW?

Your breasts should begin to grow before you start your period--usually between 9 and 14 years old, says Ob/Gyn Dr. Caren Craig. Breasts don't grow overnight--and don't bother comparing yours to your friends' because everybody develops at different rates. For instance, your BFF might have gone through puberty at 9 and already have breasts, while you're 13 and...still waiting. Ask your mom when she developed breasts. It could clue you in on when yours might sprout. And breasts continue to grow later than you think. Research shows breasts can grow even into your 20s or 30s. So be patient!

HOW SHOULD MY BREASTS LOOK?

There's no normal shape, size or color for your breasts, nipples or areola (the area surrounding the nipple). Like we said before, don't compare--every girl is different. Breasts can be small or large, and point up or down. Nipples can stick out or in, and can be pale pink to dark brown. Each breast can also be slightly different in size from the other. The position or shape of one breast could vary slightly also. And the size of your nipples and areola could be the size of a dime to the size of a CD--no kidding!

CAN YOU BE ALLERGIC TO YOUR BRA?

Yes. According to dermatologist Dr. Milton Moore of Houston, some rashes and skin irritations on and around the breasts are directly related to the construction of bras. Some bras have metal borders wrapped around them or in the underwire. "If you are sensitive to nickel and other metals, it could cause contact dermatitis when you sweat," says Dr. Moore. "The metal comes in contact with the skin due to the moisture connecting the two." If you have sensitive skin, find a bra with plastic underwires, clips and snaps. If you have any redness or itching, Dr. Moore suggests rubbing an over-the-counter 1-percent hydrocortisone base cream on the affected area two to three times a day.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD i CHANGE AND WASH MY BRA?

Change it every two to three days, and wash it even more if you tend to perspire a lot. Of course, you should always wash it after you exercise or are very active. "Any kind of jogging bra or sports bra should be changed every time you wear it because it harbors bacteria that can cause breakouts on the back," says Dr. Nardone. The rule of thumb should be that if you sweat in it, switch it.

HOW SHOULD i WASH MY BRA?

Very delicately. Wash your bra with a mild detergent like Ivory on your washing machine's delicate cycle in cold water. It's also important to separate your bras from the rest of your clothing by placing them in a lingerie bag before you stick them in the washer. Hook the snaps together to avoid snagging and tangling. And never put bras in the dryer. Heat breaks down the elastic in the fabric, so you'll have to replace them much more frequently.

MY BREASTS ARE SMALL, BUT i FEEL i SHOULD WEAR SOMETHiNG TO COVER UP. BUT i DON'T WANT THE BOYS TO MAKE FUN OF ME iF THEY SEE A BRA THROUGH MY SHiRT. WHAT CAM i DO?

It's totally normal to feel embarrassed about other people finding out you wear a bra. Boys especially like to tease, and even pull bra straps. But if you feel you would be comfortable covering up your breasts, no matter how small, then you should definitely get a bra. To give yourself the coverage you need without drawing attention to the fact that you're wearing an undergarment, never wear a colored or even white bra under a white shirt. The key to camouflaging your bra is to wear one that's a similar shade to your skin tone. Stay away from prints or patterns on your bras, as well, if you choose to wear a white or light-colored shirt. Unless you're Madonna, flaunting your bra through your shirt is a major fashion faux pas. If your bra lines are visible through a fitted-shirt, go for a seamless bra instead, found in most department stores. Every day before you leave for school, check yourself out in the mirror. If you can see your bra--either change your shirt or change your bra. It's as simple as that!

i'VE HEARD THAT. IF YOU SLEEP WITH A BRA ON. YOU CAN GET CANCER. iS THIS TRUE?

It's a total myth that sleeping with a bra on causes cancer. We've heard that rumor, but it's not true! According to Dr. Nardone, no study supports the association between breast cancer and wearing a bra to bed. However, you should go braless for a few hours every day just so the breasts aren't restricted. Let them air out already!

SHOULD i STUFF MY BRA?

Promise us you won't stuff with tissues or tube socks. There's a world of enhancement options out there to make you look bustier, but before you blow all your allowance on a WonderBra, realize that you are beautifully shaped just the way you are. If you're still insistent on wearing a bust-enhancing bra (and your mom will go for it), be careful to pick one that matches you and your body type. You don't want to sport a ridiculously large padded bra that doesn't look natural or match your frame. Searching for the perfect match can be a bit intimidating. There are padded, push-up, gel-filled, water-filled and even airlift bras on the market. If you've decided you want to add a little, um, oomph, please, don't overdo it. Gel, air and water-filled bras tend to be very full and probably too much for a young frame. Push-up bras are for making mountains out of molehills and, again, that's not the idea. A slightly padded bra is a better option. Try a T-shirt bra that has a smooth fabric with a thin layer of padding in each cup. Take your time, and pick out one that doesn't make you look like an extra on Baywatch.

CAN i MAKE MY BOOBS BiGGER?

Unless you want to look like Anna Nicole Smith, which is impossible without undergoing plastic surgery (ugh), there's nothing you can do to make your boobs bigger. And despite what the infomercials boast about on TV, you can't make your breasts larger by using breast-enhancement pills or creams. The Food and Drug Administration confirms that no breast-enhancement product has ever been proven to work. Your breasts are made up of glands, fibrous tissue and fatty tissue, so their size depends upon how much fat you store there. And that is determined by genetics, your weight, health and age. So stop chanting, "I must, I must, I must increase my bust," and learn to love what you've got.

WHY DO CELEBS BOOBS ALWAYS LOOK SO PERFECT?

It is unreal how most celebs seem to have perfect bods--and perfectly perky breasts. Well, unreal really is the key word here. The truth is that no one is perfect, but there are a lot of ways to make it appear that way on TV and movie screens. Want to know some of the tricks stars have up their sleeves for achieving physical "perfection"? First, lots of bucks are blown on custom-made bras, like for Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. Also (surprise, surprise) tape can be used for more than just gift wrapping. Hollywood celebrities are famous for using it to support their breasts when a bra can't be worn (like Jennifer Lopez in that green Oscar dress that's now just as famous as she is). All in all, celebrities have lots of money to hire lots of designers and stylists, whose job is to create the illusion that these stars are flawless. So, please don't waste your time comparing yourself to something that isn't even for real.

MY MOM HAD BREAST CANCER. AM I SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE DISEASE AND IF SO, CAN I PREVENT IT?

The bad news? Having a relative with breast cancer does put you at a slightly higher risk for developing it, according to Dr. Nardone. But that doesn't mean you are absolutely, positively destined to get breast cancer. The best advice is to learn now how to do monthly breast self-examinations (ask your doctor for help) and have mammograms starting in your 30s instead of the recommended age of 40. The earlier you detect breast cancer, the better chance for successful treatment. And October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, so what better time to educate yourself about breast health?

RELATED ARTICLE: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT

Once your breasts begin to develop, you will notice breast buds--bumps under slightly raised nipples. You don't really need to wear a bra at this stage. If you do however, want some coverage, try a training bra--no cups, wires or pads, just a layer of fabric so you don't feel exposed. We recommend hitting Limited Too for its great selection of training bras.

If your chest has grown well beyond the bud stage, you're going to need a real bra. Bra sizes come with a number and letter, such as 32B. And exactly what size bra you need depends on the measurements of your blooms, er, boobs.

To determine what size bra you should be wearing, try our foolproof tape measure test....

1. Wrap the tape snugly around your rib cage, just beneath your breasts. If you measure an odd number, add 5. For an even number, add 6. That's the first part of your bra size.

2. Figure out your cup size by wrapping the tape around the fullest part of your chest. Calculate the difference between measurement No. 1 and measurement No. 2, and refer to the chart, above right.

No matter what your breast size, a regular bra is fine for cruising the hallways but, when you're chasing a soccer ball or shooting hoops, you need a sports bra for full coverage and extra support. And for the night of the big dance when you need to conceal your bra? Try one with clear straps or a strapless. Keep in mind, though, that with or without underwires, bras with no straps will not be as supportive.
Measurement Difference Cup Size

Same as frame size AA
Up to 1" larger A
Up to 2" larger B
Up to 3" larger C
Up to 4" larger D

* For smaller breasts (AA, A, B): Wear a bra without any underwire. You
don't need as much support as someone with larger breasts.

* For fuller breasts (full B, C): Try a bra with underwire. While it
might feel awkward at first, it will provide the support you need.

* For large breasts (D+): You most definitely need an extra-supportive
underwire bra designed specifically for big-breasted women.


SHARON'S STORY

I was 14 when I realized my breasts were, well, HUGE! And, for a girl who was otherwise small, this was highly unusual. For whatever reason, I hadn't previously paid much attention to the two gigantic melons that seemed to be bursting out of my shirt but, one day, I couldn't ignore them any longer. That was the day I discovered I was a 34DDD!

I spent the next several years dealing with my bodacious breasts--and the chuckles and stares they brought about. When I was in college I came across an article in People about Soleil Moon Frye of Sabrina, the College Years. The article discussed her experience with her oversized breasts and her subsequent breast reduction. Apparently, Huge Boob Syndrome has a name--macromastia.

I was immediately convinced that's what I had, too! For the first time, I didn't feel like the only giganto boob freak on the planet. I saw a plastic surgeon, and he confirmed my diagnosis. I needed a breast reduction. I had toyed with the idea in the past but had never actually looked into it. But by this time, I was ready to say ta-ta to my ta-tas!

So exactly what is macromastia? It's a medical term used to describe breasts that grow extremely disproportionate to the rest of the body, though it can also happen to just one breast. It's more common than you might think, affecting approximately 5 percent of women. For the most part, the onset of overdeveloping breasts occurs during puberty, but it can come about in your 20s or 30s. It often happens during pregnancy, which makes some sense since breasts are naturally growing during this time.

But, oddly enough, doctors don't know why it happens. But there are plenty of reasons having such hefty hooters isn't such a good thing. For one, they're just plain uncomfortable! Physical activity and even getting into a good sleeping position can be tricky. Most women with macromastia suffer neck pain, back pain or headaches from supporting such a heavy chest. They also tend to get bad rashes where the lower part of the breasts rub against the rib cage. Skin can become really thin from stretching so much, which isn't good either. Thick straps of a strained bra can create grooves, discoloration and scars on shoulders. Ouch!

Aside from physical complications, macromastia can carry a heavy emotional burden. Dr. Renata Calabria of Beverly Hills, Calif., says most girls he treats with this condition are unhappy with their breast size because of the psychological issues that come with teasing and stares. Unfortunately, the only way to correct macromastia is with breast reduction surgery. Most patients should wait to get the surgery when they are 17 or 18 by which age they've usually stopped developing. Otherwise, they might need a second surgery once their breasts continue to grow. I was 23 when I had my surgery, and I haven't regretted downsizing for a moment. I especially dig all the tight tees and tanks I've been able to add to my wardrobe!
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Publication:Girls' Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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