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Breast Cancer in Children

What Is Breast Cancer in Children?

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. Breast cancer may occur in both male and female children.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females aged 15 to 39 years. Breast cancer in this age group is more aggressive and more difficult to treat than in older women. Treatments for younger and older women are similar. Younger patients with breast cancer may have genetic counseling (a discussion with a trained professional about inherited diseases) and testing for familial cancer syndromes. Also, the possible effects of treatment on fertility should be considered.

Most breast tumors in children are fibroadenomas, which are benign (not cancer). Rarely, these tumors become large phyllodes tumors (cancer) and begin to grow quickly. If a benign tumor begins to grow quickly, a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy or an excisional biopsy will be done. The tissues removed during the biopsy will be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.

What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Children?

The risk of breast cancer is increased by the following:

  • Having a personal history of a type of cancer that may spread to the breast, such as leukemia, rhabdomyosarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma, or lymphoma.
  • Past treatment for another cancer, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, with radiation therapy to the breast or chest.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Children?

Breast cancer may cause any of the following signs. Check with your child’s doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast.
  • A dimple or puckering in the skin of the breast.
  • A nipple turned inward into the breast.
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin that is around the nipple).
  • Dimples in the breast that look like the skin of an orange, called peau d’orange.

Other conditions that are not breast cancer may cause these same signs.

How Is Breast Cancer in Children Diagnosed?

Tests to diagnose and stage breast cancer may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • MRI.
  • Ultrasound.
  • PET scan.
  • Blood chemistry studies.
  • X-ray of the chest.
  • Biopsy.

Another test used to diagnose breast cancer is the mammogram (an x-ray of the breast). When treatment for another cancer included radiation therapy to the breast or chest, it is important to have a mammogram and MRI of the breast to check for breast cancer. These should be done beginning at age 25, or 10 years after finishing radiation therapy, whichever is later.

What Is the Treatment for Breast Cancer in Children?

Treatment of breast cancer in children may include the following:

  • Watchful waiting for benign tumors.
  • Surgery to remove the tumor, but not the whole breast. Radiation therapy may also be given.

Treatment of recurrent breast cancer in children may include the following:

  • A clinical trial that checks a sample of the patient's tumor for certain gene changes. The type of targeted therapy that will be given to the patient depends on the type of gene change.

SOURCE:

The website of the National Cancer Institute (https://www.cancer.gov)

Last updated Oct. 6, 2017


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2017


Medical Dictionary