Girl getting bra size measured in education workshop

In 2017, 87% of UK schoolgirls reported that they wanted to learn more about their breasts. 

  • 13 January 2020
  • 3 min read

Our Research Group in Breast Health has developed a breast education session that has significantly improved the attitudes of schoolgirls to their breasts. The sessions also improved their engagement with positive breast habits.

Our breast education session 

Over the past 2 years, our Research Group in Breast Health has developed and delivered a 50-minute interactive multi-topic breast education session to 375 schoolgirls.

The session covers a range of topics to encourage girls to be familiar with their breasts, including:

  • breast anatomy
  • size and shape
  • pain
  • the importance of suitable breast support
  • breast awareness

Research has shown that the majority of females are wearing the incorrect size bra. So the session also details the bra fitting process and key things to look for when buying bras. Breast cancer has been frequently reported as a concern for young girls, so this topic is also raised during the session.

The effects of breast education 

Validated evaluation tools have shown the effect the sessions have had on the knowledge and awareness of adolescent girls. The session has led to a significant improvement in the schoolgirls' breast knowledge, their attitudes to their breasts, and their engagement with positive breast habits. After 6 months, the research groups retested the schoolgirls and found the improvements in their knowledge and awareness had been sustained. 

Schoolgirls who took part in the sessions described it as "informative", "insightful" and "important". They said it has made them "feel less embarrassed and more confident" about their breasts. 

Brogan Horler, a member of the Research Group in Breast Health, recently attended the netball world cup. She noticed that several of the competitors weren't wearing appropriate breast support during the competition, highlighting the lack of breast awareness and knowledge and lack of positive role models. This could be contributing to the rapid decline in female sport participation often seen in secondary schools.

Previous research by the Research Group in Breast Health showed that 50% of school girls believed their breasts were a barrier to their participation in sport. After the breast education session, adolescent girls reported wanting to do more exercise. The wider positive impact of the breast education sessions was increasing the participation of young girls in exercise.

National recognition

The success of the breast education initiative created by the Research Group in Breast Health has been recognised by several national news broadcasters. Their research has been cited in articles highlighting the lack of breast knowledge and sports bra use in many different female groups, from schoolgirls to elite sportswomen.

Researcher Dr Nicola Brown has presented findings of the Research Group to Westminster. She presented the concerns that adolescent girls have about their breasts to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer. During this session Dr Brown shared the strategies we've developed to educate girls about breast health including increasing breast awareness and knowledge.

Dr Brown’s work has also gained support from public figures such as former Arsenal football and PE teacher, Eartha Pond, and The Bust Trust.

Future strategy

The Research Group in Breast Health aims to educate thousands of young girls about breast anatomy, size and shape and correct bra fitting. They plan to engage with more Members of Parliament to encourage schools in their local constituencies to use their breast education resources. 

Find out more

If you're interested in hearing more about the breast education project or working with them to implement or evaluate breast education interventions for your own needs, contact Atefeh Omrani (PhD student) at atefeh.omrani@stmarys.ac.uk or Dr Nicola Brown at nicola.brown@stmarys.ac.uk.

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