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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer in Teens – Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

Can teenagers get breast cancer? Breast cancer can happen at any age, particularly for those young women that have a history of breast cancer in their family or a genetic disposition to breast disease. Other high-risk factors include:

  • Obesity;
  • Excessive alcohol use;
  • High red meat intake; and
  • Breast density. 

Interestingly, some studies have shown that birth control pills slightly increase breast cancer risk in teenage girls.

There are times that teen girls may discover a small lump in their breast, but it is almost always benign and typically triggered by normal hormonal fluctuations. These noncancerous lumps usually go away on their own. However, there are symptoms a doctor should be made aware of: 

  • The breast tissue hurts outside of normal soreness caused by a menstrual period;
  • Breast tissue puckers or dimples;
  • Itchy or scaly rash on breast;
  • Unexplained changes in breast symmetry, shape and size; 
  • Breast swelling, red or hot to touch;
  • Nipple discharge is liquid or bloody;
  • Lump spreads to armpit or collarbone;
  • Lump is hard;
  • Lump size ranges; and 
  • Lump is painful.

Due to the high amount of treatment options for teen breast development, the survival rate is high. Teenagers are healthy enough to tolerate the most aggressive therapies used to treat breast cancer. That’s why it’s best to avoid high-risk lifestyle behaviors that can increase this risk. The American Cancer Society has noted that although environmental and lifestyle behaviors are not strongly associated with breast cancer, it’s best to avoid engaging in risky ones like smoking and consistently unhealthy diets.

It’s important to note that some breast conditions in teens are easy to treat. They include fibroadenomas, fibrocystic breast changes and infections. There are other symptoms that young girls should not be worried about. These are perfectly normal and are not problems:

  • Breast development;
  • Symmetry;
  • Size; and
  • Pain.

Although it is not typically recommended for women under 40 to undergo breast screening annually, it’s important for those teens experiencing symptoms to receive breast screening. Regular screening done at least every 3 years is recommended for women in their 20s. However, the American Cancer Society recommends that all women know how their breasts look and feel and report any changes to their doctors.

To access the full article on breast cancer in teens, click here.