Symptoms and Signs of Breast Cancer in Children

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2022

Doctor's Notes on Breast Cancer in Children

Breast cancer is a disease where malignant cells multiply to form tumors in the breast of a male or female child. Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in children include

  • a change in the size or shape of the breast,
  • a lump or thickening tissue near the breast or underarm,
  • a dimple or puckering of breast skin,
  • breast dimples resembling an orange peel (termed peau d'orange),
  • a nipple turned inward, and
  • skin changes that are scaly, red, and/or swollen anywhere on the breast.

The exact cause of breast cancers in children not understood, but such cancers are associated with prior cancers that may spread to the breast (leukemias, lymphomas, soft tissue sarcoma, rhabdosarcoma, for example) and radiation therapy to the breast or chest for other cancer problems like Hodgkin lymphoma.

What Are the Treatments for Breast Cancer in Children?

After the breast lesion is diagnosed (cancer or benign fibroadenoma), the following types of treatment options that may be used in children with breast cancer or benign fibroadenomas may include the following:

  • Watchful waiting: monitoring without medication (for example, done with benign fibroadenomas)
  • Chemotherapy: stops growth or kills many types of tumor cells
  • Surgery: surgical removal of tumor
  • Radiation therapy: external (beams of X-rays or protons) or implantable radioactive compounds to stop growth or kill many types of tumors
  • Targeted therapy: drugs and/or other compounds that attack specific cancer cells

In addition, other treatments are being researched in clinical trials; inclusion of your child in a clinical trial may be suggested by your child's medical team. Ask the team members to explain the clinical trial if they recommend that your child joins.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.