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Fewer than one in 15 million children gets breast cancer. Some studies speculate that breast cancer in children occurs only once globally every five years. This translates into roughly a 0.1 percent chance of getting childhood cancer of the breast. While breast cancer in children is a rarity, it is possible for both boys and girls to develop lumps or cysts in adolescence or during the teenage years. An occasional one may be cancerous but most are benign.
Breast cancer in children is believed to be a hereditary condition. Mutations in genes can create so-called “cancer genes.” A child with several generations and incidents of family cancer might have a higher risk of acquiring the cancer gene, BRCA1 or BRCA2, which might be triggered by a variety of biological or environmental factors that doctors are still investigating. Some children with breast cancer, however, have been found to have no cancer genes.
An adolescent does not have to have developed breasts for cancer to occur. Most children with breast cancer, however, are in puberty and undergoing hormonal changes that are seemingly more drastic than typical adolescence. Some studies suggest these hormonal shifts, coupled with the normal fast cell growth in a child’s body, may be one trigger linked to the cancer development.
When breast cancer in children does occur, it can be the infiltrating ductal carcinoma variety. This type of cancer develops when mutated cells cluster in a mammary duct before relocating to nearby breast tissue. Doctors theorize that hormonal abnormalities cause the formation of these ductal lumps and proximal scar tissue, which feels lumpy and distinct from the breast’s regular composition. The abnormal tissue might cause itching, which often alerts parents to breast cancer in children.
Despite the possibility of breast cancer in children, doctors do not recommend that young girls or boys be taught to assess themselves for mysterious lumps or cysts in the chest area. Mammograms, according to doctors, should also not be performed on children or teens. In necessary cases, biopsies can determine if a lump is malignant or not.
Children who are treated early for breast cancer often have a high survival rate that exceeds 80 percent. Doctors suggest that parents help children to lower risk of developing breast cancer by eating healthy foods and avoiding processed and chemical-laden foods. Vigorous physical activity and the avoidance of carcinogens such as nicotine can also help.