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Unusual Cancers of Childhood (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Unusual Cancers of the Chest

Breast Cancer

Most breast tumors in children are fibroadenomas, which are benign (not cancer). Rarely, these tumors become large phyllodes tumors (cancer) and begin to grow quickly. If a benign tumor begins to grow quickly, a fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy or an excisional biopsy will be done. The tissues removed during the biopsy will be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. Breast cancer may occur in both male and female children.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among teenage and young adult women aged 15 to 39 years. Breast cancer in this age group is more aggressive and more difficult to treat successfully than in older women. Treatments for younger and older women are similar. Also, care for younger patients with breast cancer includes checking for familial cancer syndromes and considering possible fertility issues when choosing treatment.

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

The risk of breast cancer is increased by the following:

  • Having a personal history of cancer that may spread to the breast, such as leukemia, rhabdomyosarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma, or lymphoma.
  • Past treatment for another cancer, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, with radiation therapy to the breast or chest.

Breast cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your child's doctor if you see any of the following problems in your child:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast.
  • A dimple or puckering in the skin of the breast.
  • A nipple turned inward into the breast.
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin that is around the nipple).
  • Dimples in the breast that look like the skin of an orange, called peau d'orange.

Other conditions that are not breast cancer may cause these same symptoms.

Tests to diagnose and stage breast cancer may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • MRI.
  • Ultrasound.
  • PET scan.
  • Blood chemistry studies.
  • X-ray of the chest.
  • Biopsy.
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