Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Teens

26 Mar, 2024

Many believe that women get diagnosed with breast cancer only in their middle ages. This is, however, only partly true. In rare cases, breast cancer can be seen in teenagers.

While we do not know the exact cause of breast cancer among teenagers, it has been observed that certain factors, like genetic mutations, exposure to radiation, and family history, contribute to the increased risk of breast cancer among adolescents.

Breast cancer in teens, though rare, requires attention. Early signs of breast cancer in teens include lumps, swelling, nipple changes, skin abnormalities, and discomfort.

Prompt medical evaluation is essential for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Awareness and early detection are critical for effectively managing this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Teens?

Early signs and symptoms of breast cancer include unusual lumps or masses in the breast or underarms, changes in breast size or shape, nipple abnormalities like inversion or discharge, skin changes such as redness or dimpling, and persistent pain.

Breast cancer can significantly affect the quality of life for teens, affecting their physical, emotional, and social well-being.

Treatment side effects like fatigue, pain, and hair loss can disrupt daily activities and reduce self-confidence. Emotional stress, anxiety, and fear of recurrence may also arise.

How Common is Breast Cancer in Teens?

Breast cancer is rare in teens, comprising less than 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses. Although the disease predominantly affects older women, teens can also be involved.

Young women in India have a higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to young women in Western countries.

At What Age Can You Get Breast Cancer?

It can occur in women of any age but is more common in older women.

Although rare, it can also affect younger women, including those in their teens and 20s. Regardless of age, it is important to be vigilant about breast health, and regular screenings are important to detect any abnormalities early.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Teens?

Some of the common symptoms of breast cancer in teens are:

Breast Tissue Begins to Hurt

Breast pain or tenderness is not a common symptom of breast cancer in teens.

However, it is important not to ignore persistent breast pain, especially when it is accompanied by other symptoms like lumps, skin changes, or nipple discharge.

Breast Swells and Has a Reddish Hue or is Hot to Touch

Swelling of the breast can occur in breast cancer, but it is not generally the only symptom present.

In teens, breast swelling can often be related to hormonal changes during puberty rather than cancer.

It is important to see a doctor when there is unusual or persistent swelling, along with other symptoms like lumps, skin changes, or nipple abnormalities.

Nipple Discharge

It may be a symptom of breast cancer in teens. However, it is more commonly associated with benign conditions or hormonal changes during puberty.

It is important to see a doctor in case of any persistent or unusual nipple discharge, especially when there is a presence of blood.

Breast Lump Begins to Metastasize or Spread

Metastasis, the spread of cancer from the breast to other parts of the body, is not usually an early symptom of breast cancer in teens.

Metastasis usually occurs in the more advanced stages of the disease.

Types of Teen Breast Lumps

Although the presence of lumps is one of the most common signs of breast cancer, not all breast lumps indicate breast cancer. Various other non-cancerous conditions can cause a breast lump in teenagers and adults.

The following are some of the typical teen breast lumps:

Breast Abscesses

Breast abscess refers to the localized collection of pus in the breast tissue. Usually, bacterial infections lead to breast abscesses. Although it can present as a lump in the breast, it is not a usual symptom of breast cancer in teens.

That said, teenagers with a lump in the breast should consult the doctor for a proper evaluation.

Breast Cysts

It is a fluid-filled sac that can form within the breast tissue. Breast cysts are more common in women over 40. However, they can occur in teens as well.

In most cases, breast cysts are benign, but they should be properly examined for a conclusive diagnosis.


Fibroadenoma is a common benign breast condition that can occur in teens and young women. It often presents as a firm, rubbery lump that moves easily within the breast tissue.

While fibroadenomas are usually harmless, they must be examined promptly for a definitive diagnosis.

Breast Hematomas Due to Injury

Injuries to the chest region can result in bleeding and the formation of a hematoma in the breast. This may feel like a lump in the breast.

Usually, hematomas are benign, but they should be thoroughly examined to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.

Juvenile fibroadenomas

Juvenile fibroadenomas are a type of benign breast tumor that can occur in adolescents and young women. They are typically small, firm, and well-defined lumps within the breast tissue.

In most cases, juvenile fibroadenomas are usually non-cancerous, it is important to consult the doctor for a detailed examination.

Causes of Breast Cancer in Teens

The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown. However, certain factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer have been identified. The following are some of the possible causes of breast cancer in teens:

Early Menstruation

Some studies suggest that early menstruation may be linked with a higher breast cancer risk later in life. It is because the initiation of menstruation at an early age exposes the breast tissue to estrogen for a longer duration.

Chronic exposure to estrogen is a risk factor for breast cancer.

Genetic Mutation

Genetic mutations, particularly those in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can result in breast cancer in teens. It increases the risk of breast cancer at a younger age.

Additionally, other genetic syndromes, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome or Cowden syndrome, can also increase the risk of breast cancer in teens.

Radiation Therapy

Teens who have received radiation therapy as part of their treatment for conditions such as Hodgkin's lymphoma or other cancers, especially in the chest area, may have an enhanced breast cancer risk as they age.

It is important to note that oncologists ensure that the benefits of radiation therapy often outweigh the risks before it is recommended as a treatment for different types of cancer.

Family History of Breast or Ovarian Cancer

A family history of breast or ovarian cancer can enhance the risk of breast cancer in teens.

Teens with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, especially close relatives like parents, siblings, or grandparents, should undergo genetic counseling and testing to assess their risk.

Use of Birth Control Pills

Using birth control pills is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk may depend on the duration of use and the specific type of birth control pill.

Bottom Note

Awareness of the earliest signs of breast cancer, like breast lumps, nipple changes, or skin abnormalities, is important for the early detection of breast cancer in teens.

Genetic factors, radiation therapy, and family history may enhance the breast cancer risk in teens.

Understanding these factors allows proactive measures, including monitoring and genetic counseling, to reduce risks effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What does breast cancer look like in a 14-year-old?

Breast cancer in a 14-year-old typically presents similarly to breast cancer in older individuals. However, breast cancer is very rare at this age.

Signs may include a breast lump, changes in size or shape, nipple discharge, skin changes like dimpling, or nipple abnormalities.

  1. Is it normal for a 13-year-old to have a lump in his breast?

It is not uncommon for adolescents, both boys and girls, to experience breast tissue changes during puberty.

In some cases, these changes may include the development of small lumps or masses behind the nipple, known as breast buds. However, it is best to consult the doctor if there is any concern.

  1. What is the youngest age for breast cancer?

Women of any age can have breast cancer, but it is rare in young children. Children from 7 to 8 years of age are also reported to have breast cancer.

The majority of breast cancer cases are reported in adults, particularly in individuals over the age of 50.

  1. How long can you have breast cancer without knowing?

The duration someone can have breast cancer without knowing it varies greatly depending on factors such as the type of cancer, its aggressiveness, and whether it is detected through screening or by symptoms.

  1. How do you self-check for breast cancer as a teenager?

As a teen, regularly, preferably monthly, inspect breasts for changes in size, shape, or texture. Note any skin changes, nipple discharge, or other abnormalities, and consult a physician if necessary.

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