Breast Masses in Teenage Girls: What You Need to Know
With greater awareness of breast cancer, more girls are concerned about lumps they feel in their breasts. This is often very normal.
As a parent, it’s very hard not to be concerned when your child isn’t feeling well or tells you that they feel something “weird” in their body. When your tween or teenage girl comes to you saying that she feels a lump in her breast, your mind may immediately race to breast cancer. Please know that it is extremely rare for breast cancer to occur in girls younger than 20 years old, accounting for less than one-tenth of one percent of all breast cancers, according to the American Pediatric Surgical Association.
With today’s heightened awareness around breast cancer, more and more doctors are seeing girls concerned about lumps they feel in their breasts. These lumps are actually normal breast tissue that is growing at different rates. Since younger breast tissue is denser than more mature tissue, it can be fibrous and have a nodular feel. A mass in the breast of a young girl is very different than a mass in an adult, and is best evaluated by a pediatric surgeon to avoid unnecessary tests and procedures. Due to this density of teenage breast tissue and the rarity of breast cancer in this age group, mammography should not be used, because it exposes the patient to radiation and is not a reliable screening tool for breast cancer in young women. Sometimes an ultrasound may be recommended, but an experienced pediatric surgeon should be able to evaluate the situation just as carefully.
If your child does feel a lump, you may be told that it is a benign fibroadenoma, the most common diagnosis for breast lumps in adolescent females, and which is likely the result of abundant estrogen. These are firm, rubbery lumps within the breast tissue that are not attached to skin or muscle and may move when touched. The size of the lumps may fluctuate in size with monthly menstrual cycles. Treatment can vary. It may be as simple as monitoring the lumps for size and texture, and in the most extreme cases, a biopsy or surgery may be necessary. Fortunately, there is little risk of fibroadenomas progressing to breast cancer over time, and fibroadenomas alone do not increase the risk of breast cancer.
So if your daughter is concerned about something she feels in her breast, take comfort in the fact that lumps in teenage breast tissue are usually benign. A pediatric surgeon can provide complete reassurance, and will help determine if any additional testing or procedures are needed. Remember to applaud your daughter for being aware of changes in her body, and encourage her to always come to you to discuss her feelings and concerns about every stage of her development.
Dr. Thomas Schmelzer is a board-certified Pediatric Surgeon with Pediatric Surgical Associates in Charlotte. For more information on keeping your child safe and well, visit www.pedsurgical.com.