In pediatric patients, breast masses are relatively rare and – if they do occur – most are benign. The most common breast abnormality seen in children younger than 12 is a unilateral breast mass corresponding to asymmetrical breast development. Often, one breast develops earlier than the other, although they ultimately become symmetrical.
In rare cases, congenital breast anomalies can occur. Athelia (absence of nipples) and amastia (absence of breast tissue) may occur bilaterally or unilaterally. This is a rare condition caused by mammary ridges that fail to develop or disappear.
An extra breast (polymastia) or extra nipple (polythelia) occurs in about 1 percent of the population, though extra nipples are slightly more common in males than in females. This extra tissue may cause discomfort during menstrual cycles and should be removed due to a risk of malignant transformation.
If your child is experiencing any of the following breast symptoms, you should bring her in for examination by a doctor:
If your daughter has a breast mass, the doctor will first ask about:
Her doctor will then perform a complete examination of both breasts to evaluate for masses and nipple discharge.
Because breast tissue in young children is very dense, mammography is not usually very helpful for diagnosis. If your doctor cannot immediately diagnose the condition with physical examination, he or she may order an ultrasound test.
In young and pre-adolescent children, doctors avoid biopsy unless completely necessary, as it can harm the developing breast.
If your child is showing signs of early breast development, her doctor will examine her for other signs of puberty such as pubic hair and accelerated bone growth.
If your daughter’s doctor suspects precocious puberty, he or she will order blood hormone tests and an x-ray of the wrist (called a bone age test).
Your doctor may want to monitor benign masses every few months to ensure they don’t enlarge, cause pain, or develop atypical changes.
In pediatric patients, breast masses are relatively rare and – if they do occur – most are benign. The most common breast abnormality seen in children younger than 12 is a unilateral breast mass corresponding to asymmetrical breast development. In adolescent girls, most masses are also benign.
Bring your daughter in for an examination if she has a mass that’s painful or painless, redness, swelling, nipple discharge, pain, breast tenderness not associated with menstruation, or early breast development.