Shaney jo Darden founded Keep A Breast 21 years ago after a friend, who was in her 20’s, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She explains, “Since the beginning, Keep A Breast has made connections with younger generations about breast health through music, art, skate, and surf culture. We meet young people where they are and we empower them with the education to help them be their own best health advocates.”
To honor breast cancer prevention, we’ve sat down with Shaney to learn about Keep A Breast’s mission, the pillars of breast health, as well as helpful tips in performing your own monthly self-breast exam. We’re also celebrating the launch of KAB’s new Spoonflower shop featuring donated designs by supporters Circe Oropeza and Laurie Shipley.
Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Keep A Breast
“Our mission at Keep A Breast is to reduce breast cancer risk and its impact globally through art, education, prevention, and action.
Over 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States each year. Approximately 12,000 of those diagnosed are under the age of 40. When breast cancer is detected early (in the localized stage) the 5-year survival rate is 98% (National Cancer Institute). We believe that through a monthly self-check routine, more people are likely to detect changes in their bodies quickly, seek medical advice, and potentially detect cancer early. Knowledge is Power.”
Knowing your normal: At Keep A Breast, we want young people to understand and be educated that breast cancer under 40 is a reality. It can happen to anyone, not just your mom or grandmother. It’s so important to know what is ‘normal’ for you and your body, so you know when something is off, and checking yourself is the first way to become your own health advocate.
Being your own health advocate: At the end of the day, you know when something is wrong and you know what’s best for you. Although we focus on personal choices that we can make, we don’t want the burden to be on our shoulders to be responsible for cancer prevention. That’s why we empower young people to advocate for better products, laws, and healthcare.
Revolting against toxic chemicals: We believe that prevention is the cure, and over 10 years ago, we realized that many toxic chemicals in our environment and food supply are linked to the development of breast cancer. Our program Non Toxic Revolution provides alternative choices so that young people everywhere can make smart changes within their capacity.
Embracing movement: Keep A Breast was born from art and embraced by active communities like skate, surf, and yoga. Since just 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 times a week can lower our risk of breast cancer by 30-50%, our program Fit 4 Prevention aims to champion movement for everyone of all abilities to lower their risk through fitness and wellness.
Self-checks are especially important for young people as generally, women do not start getting mammograms until the age of 40, creating the illusion that breast cancer only affects women 40 and older. We believe that it’s important to start a positive relationship with your breasts once you’ve developed them, so we encourage young people to start checking themselves as early as their teens and any time after that.
We suggest you check yourself once a month to establish your normal so you can tell if anything changes. You can set a reminder in the free Keep A Breast app!
The app also shows you step-by-step how to perform a self-check. You can start by standing in front of a mirror and spending some time looking at your breasts.
Perform your self-exam in the comfort of your home or with a trusted friend or partner assisting you. If you’re able, put your hands over your head and on your hips and take note of your side and under boob as well. Then, place one hand behind your head and use three fingers to massage your breast and feel for anything out of the norm for you. Move your three fingers in small circles with different levels of pressure and walk your fingers around your breasts, instead of lifting them off. Cover your entire breast, including your armpits. Spend extra time in your pits, where your lymphatic system lives, and where many breast cancer develop. Finally, don’t forget your nips. Squeeze each nipple to check for any pain or discharge. It only takes a few minutes each month and shows your breasts some serious self-love.
We understand, the idea of a self-check can be scary. During your monthly self-check, you are never “looking for cancer” but rather getting to know your body—which is a crucial component of your mental and physical health. At first, you might need to discover what’s normal for you because some bumps aren’t cancerous. Check for bumps you haven’t felt before, pain, and discoloration.
We always tell people to start their self-check from a place of love. Look in the mirror. Your body is beautiful and your breasts are perfect just the way they are. All boobs are perfect—seriously.
First and foremost, download the Keep A Breast app and share it with your friends and family! For the first time, a breast self-check app now connects users who think they may have discovered something during their check with a telehealth medical professional via our partnership with Carbon Health, a technology-enabled healthcare provider that combines smart technology with inviting clinics and a robust virtual offering. Our app is now available in English and Spanish!
You can also host or join a Fit 4 Prevention donation class to support our work and breast health education for all.
Circe: Last year I became a mother. I’m fortunate to spend every day with Nina, my beautiful daughter. I’m amazed at the ability of children to learn and those of us who take care of them have a great opportunity to help them form valuable habits in their lives.
Nina loves plants and flowers, we have several at home and she has shown interest in them from a very young age. Sometimes we water them together and I show her how to touch them so they don’t get hurt while I explain what we must do in order to keep them growing.
I like the idea that I have the opportunity to teach her we can take care of our body in the same way we take care of a little plant, keeping it healthy, making the right choices such as having a balanced diet, staying active, talking about our emotions and taking action to prevent diseases.
Keep A Breast is a foundation that dedicates everything to breast cancer prevention through education, making special emphasis on educating the new generations. Being a mother, this statement has been the main inspiration for this design, Sharing Is Caring, because sharing knowledge is a great gift, especially when it is knowledge that can save lives.
It’s literally in our hands—the opportunity to prevent breast cancer by doing something as simple as touching our body. These big hands are teaching the small ones to take care of a little lemon tree in just the same way KAB is meant to educate youth about breast cancer prevention.
I’m honored to have been invited to do my bit for this cause and I am truly committed to spreading the word!
Laurie: I’ve been a long-time supporter and artistic contributor of Keep A Breast and am inspired by the way the KAB team have touched so many lives in positive ways. Their mission is unique because they are all about actions we can take in prevention. They are doing the work to educate young people on the ways breast cancer can touch their lives while teaching all of us how to care for our bodies and how to identify changes in our breasts that may signal a problem.
Last year, I was invited to participate in The Keep A Breast Nashville Collection. This exhibition paired 80+ artists with an individual breast cast that represented someone who either has or had breast cancer or is a survivor of breast cancer. Each featured artist and individual’s cast was auctioned off and the proceeds were distributed via the Keep A Breast Give Back Grants.
Laurie’s painted cast | Castee: Charlie Pierce
I painted my castee’s breast cast in an abstract pattern of blue and purple leaves with pops of neon yellow. I took inspiration from that castee painting to create three repeating patterns that work well for sewing projects, wallpaper and home decor. This series is a celebration of the ways in which Keep A Breast reaches young people through the arts.