Breast Cancer in Children

Medically Reviewed on 2/14/2023

Two girls with cancer wearing head scarves
Breast tumors can occur in children, but are usually benign (noncancerous). Cases of breast cancer in children are rare.

Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer globally. It is mostly seen in women, whereas men are rarely affected.

Breast tumors are occasionally seen in children and are mostly benign (noncancerous) and thought to be harmless. Breast lumps in children are known as fibroadenomas, and girls are more likely to develop these tumors. There is no standard staging of breast cancer in children.

Can breast cancer occur in children?

Breast cancer develops when cancer cells proliferate in the breast tissue. It most commonly affects women.

  • According to the CDC, the risk of breast cancer increases with age.
  • Children's cases are rarer but not impossible.
  • When children develop tumors in their breast tissue, they are not always cancerous. Instead, they are called fibroadenomas. Fibroadenomas are noncancerous and do not cause symptoms. Tumors in children with fibroadenomas should continue to be monitored because they may grow and become cancerous in rare cases.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer in children?

The exact cause of breast cancer in children is unknown. The risk factors for breast cancer in children include

  • History of cancer (leukemia, rhabdomyosarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma, or lymphoma)
  • History of previous treatment with radiation therapy to the breast or chest region in children for another cancer, such as Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Any parent or siblings with a history of breast cancer

What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer in children?

Breast cancer in children is sporadic but can cause symptoms that are usually harmless. The signs of breast cancer in children include

  • A lump, mass, or thickening in the breast region or underarm
  • Any changes in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimple in the skin of the breast
  • Inverted nipples (pointing inward)
  • A scaly red and swollen area on the breast, nipple or areola region (a dark skin region around the nipple)
  • Any fluid discharge from the nipple

What are the other types of breast lumps seen in children?

Breast lumps are bulges or lumps in the breast region. Commonly seen in older women, breast lumps are rare in children. These breast lumps are usually harmless and asymptomatic.

The most common types of breast lumps include

  • Breast cysts: Are the common type of lumps seen in children and adults. These cysts are fluid-filled and mostly seen just under the skin of the breast. These cysts are usually noncancerous and asymptomatic but can be painful in girls before menarche (their first period). The size of the cyst may also change with time.
  • Fibroadenomas: Are benign or noncancerous. These are mostly seen in teenagers and young women in their early 20s. Made up of glands and connective tissue, fibroadenomas are painless and harmless and may vary in size.
  • Fibrocystic changes: Generally, these occur in the woman's breast tissue and cause breast lumps. Mostly, fibrocystic breasts are harmless and sometimes may cause discomfort. However, fibrocystic lumps can be painful in girls before their first period.

Common causes of breast lumps are as follows:

  • Any injury to the breast (which may cause damage to blood vessels and fat tissue and may result in a breast lump)
  • A bacterial infection
  • Precocious puberty or early puberty in children


A lump in the breast is almost always cancer. See Answer

What are the ways to diagnose breast cancer in children?

The following are the ways in which breast cancer is diagnosed in children:

How to treat breast cancer in children

Breast cancer treatment in children depends on the overall health condition of the child or if the child has any other cancer.

  • Breast cancer in children does not show any symptoms and requires no treatment. Keep monitoring the tumor carefully, and watch for any sudden changes.
  • Any malignant breast tumors may require radiation therapy.
  • Surgical removal of the lump or the tumor may be done, but complete breast removal is not recommended.
  • New therapies (such as target drug therapies) that target only the cancer cells and don’t affect other healthy cells in the body may be recommended.
  • Because childhood cancer is uncommon, participating in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are only available to those who have not yet begun treatment.
Medically Reviewed on 2/14/2023
Image source: iStock Images