Can Children Get Breast Cancer?

Symptoms in Teens and Children Under 10

Breast cancer is possible in children but very rare. Research shows that children treated for previous cancer with radiation to the chest are the most at risk of developing breast cancer. 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females age 15 to 39, but less than 5% of all breast cancer cases occur in this group. There are other benign reasons why a child or adolescent might develop a lump in their breast.

This article covers what causes breast lumps in children, when to see your healthcare provider, and how to cope with a cancer diagnosis. 

Young child in a hospital with a nurse

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Childhood Cancer

Breast cancer is very rare in children and adolescents. The most common cancers affecting children are:

Breast Cancer Tumors vs. Fibroadenomas in Children 

Breast cancer tumors are malignant tumors that can grow and spread throughout the breast and body. Fibroadenomas are benign (not cancerous) tumors that may develop in a child’s chest or breast. While they are harmless, fibroadenomas can become cancerous in rare cases.

Most Masses Are Benign 

The majority of lumps detected in children’s breasts are benign. Breast buds, small, disc-shaped lumps that develop under the nipple and areola, are one of the most common causes of breast lumps in females 8 to 12. 

Once breast buds form, they grow into breast tissue over the next two to three years. They are normal and often mark the beginning of puberty. For most people, the menstrual period begins about two years after breast buds first develop.

Breast buds are not at risk of becoming cancerous. It is normal for a breast bud to develop on one side of the chest first. The other side should develop within three months.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for breast cancer in children include:

  • History of radiation to the chest for past cancer
  • History of cancer that may spread to the breast 
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Presence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene

When to Examine Your Child

If your child is concerned about breast pain or a new lump, take them to a healthcare provider for an exam. Possible symptoms to alert your provider about include:

  • Lump or thickening in or around the breast
  • Nipple discharge with blood or pus
  • Change in the shape or size of the breast
  • Nipple turned inward
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin on the breast
  • The skin on the breast appears red, swollen, or scaly

When your child is older, they may feel more comfortable seeing their healthcare provider on their own. Talk with your adolescent and their provider about when to make that shift. 

Diagnostic Tests

When your child has a breast lump, your provider will likely start with a physical exam to assess their overall health. They may also conduct a breast exam to palpate (feel) the lump. Alert your provider if your child has a history of cancer or radiation treatment and if breast cancer runs in your family.

Diagnostic tests that may be needed include:

How Young Can You Get Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer at a young age is incredibly rare. In females younger than 20, breast cancer occurs at a rate of 0.1%, meaning that for every 1 million children and teens, there is one case of breast cancer.

Treatment Differences in Children and Adults 

In the rare case that a child has breast cancer, the treatment differs from traditional methods for adults. Often, they are treated by a healthcare provider specializing in childhood cancers.

Once the medical team has determined that the breast tumor is cancerous, they will present you with several options for treatment. The medical team may recommend close monitoring or surgical removal if the tumor is benign. 

If the tumor is cancerous, the following treatments are possible:

Because childhood breast cancer is rare, your child’s medical team may recommend enrolling in a clinical trial for treatment.

Coping Tips for Parents of Children With Breast Cancer

Having a child with any cancer is unspeakably difficult for a parent, including rare cancers such as childhood breast cancer. 

To cope with this diagnosis, consider taking the following steps:

  • Ask questions: This is an overwhelming time. Continue to ask questions of your medical team until you feel like you understand your child's diagnosis and prognosis.
  • Get help: No one can go at it alone when it comes to cancer. Ask for help with meal preparation, laundry, childcare, financial planning, and more. 
  • Take a break: You are likely spending hours researching your child's condition. While this is important, be sure to give your brain and body their needed rest.
  • Plan for fun: A child with cancer still needs time to be silly and have fun. Do your best to allow your child to play and take a break from cancer talk. 
  • Meet with a therapist: Consider meeting with a mental health provider or joining a parents' support group for much-needed support.


Breast cancer in children and adolescents is very rare but possible. Children who had cancer in the past and received radiation therapy to the chest are at the highest risk of developing breast cancer. Most breast lumps in children and adolescents are benign growths or breast buds. See your healthcare provider if your child develops a breast lump, nipple discharge, or breast pain.

A Word From Verywell 

Breast cancer is a rare cancer in children and adolescents. If you are concerned about a lump in your child’s breast, know it is likely benign. Talk with your healthcare provider, especially if your child has had cancer. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are breast lumps normal during puberty?

    Yes, breast lumps can be a normal part of development during puberty. Females develop breast buds between the ages of 8 and 12. Over the following years, these breast buds grow into breast tissue. Talk with your healthcare provider if your daughter has not developed breast buds by age 13.

  • Are daughters of mothers with breast cancer more prone to it?

    Yes, certain types of breast cancer have a genetic component. This means that your risk is higher if your mother has breast cancer. 

  • What helps with breast bud pain in children?

    Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if your child reports painful breast buds. You might try over-the-counter pain medication, warm compresses, and wearing a supportive bra if they have mild soreness.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.