Although breast cancer is rarely diagnosed in teens, a small number of patients – less than 2 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute – are diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 34. Because the risk of developing breast cancer early in life is so low, teenagers and young adults generally do not need to be overly concerned. However, adolescence is an ideal time to establish healthy habits, such as avoiding tobacco products and exercising regularly, which can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in the future.
On occasion, a teenager or young adult might discover a small lump in his or her breast tissue. However, these lumps are almost always benign (noncancerous), and are usually caused by normal hormonal fluctuations or infections.
Noncancerous lumps that develop in younger individuals often go away on their own. However, if a teenager or young adult notices any of the following, he or she is advised to make an appointment with a physician:
- The breast tissue starts to hurt (and the pain is not the ordinary soreness that accompanies a menstrual period, if female)
- The breast becomes swollen, reddish in color or hot to the touch
- The nipple begins to secrete a liquid or bloody discharge
- The lump spreads to the armpit or collarbone
Patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer as teenagers or young adults often have a wide range of treatment options, as they are typically healthy enough to tolerate even the most aggressive therapies. As a result, survival outcomes are often high for young breast cancer patients.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our Adolescent and Young Adult Program is dedicated to improving outcomes for patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer early on in life. Through this program, patients can work with a team of oncologists who have noted experience providing chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and other treatments to other patients in their age group. This program also provides emotional and social support for the unique challenges that individuals may face when they receive a cancer diagnosis as a teenager or young adult.
For more information about Moffitt Cancer Center’s approach to treating breast cancer in teens, contact us today. Referrals are not required to make an appointment; call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.