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Breast cancer and teenage girls

Developing breast cancer when you’re a teenager is rare. Learn about breast lumps, breast pain and breast cancer risk.

The vast majority of breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 50.

There can be a lot of unreliable information and ‘scare stories’ on the internet, so it’s important to use reputable websites or talk to your GP if you’re worried about any changes to your breasts.

1. Breast lumps in teenagers

It can be normal to feel lumps when your breasts are developing and these often disappear on their own.

If a lump causes you any discomfort, appears to get bigger or you’re worried about it, talk to someone such as your GP. You may also want to talk to someone in your family or a school nurse.

Although it’s very unlikely that there’s anything wrong, a doctor can check it out and should put your mind at rest. You can ask to see a female doctor or the practice nurse if this will make you feel more comfortable.

Very occasionally lumps are a sign of a benign breast condition. ‘Benign’ means harmless, and a benign condition will not become a breast cancer. The most common benign lump as the breasts are developing is known as a fibroadenoma.

2. Painful breasts

It’s normal for breasts to feel uncomfortable and painful at times. Breast pain can be anything from a mild ache to a sharp, stabbing, burning sensation.

Breasts can be painful when they are developing during puberty. For some people, breast pain is affected by changing hormone levels: the pain is at its worst just before a period, settling down again afterwards. For others the pain can happen at any time.

There are practical ways and treatments to help settle breast pain, so talk to your doctor if this is a problem for you.

Sometimes an ill-fitting bra can cause pain and discomfort, so it’s worth making sure your bra fits you properly.

3. Breast cancer risk

There are many myths about the causes of breast cancer. The following things don’t increase someone's risk of getting breast cancer:

  • Injuring your breast
  • Using deodorants
  • Wearing an underwired bra
  • Having your nipple pierced 
  • Carrying a mobile phone in your breast pocket

The three things that increase the risk of breast cancer the most are things we have no control over. They are: being a woman, getting older, and having a significant family history of breast cancer.

Some things – like drinking too much alcohol and smoking – might slightly increase the risk.

4. Useful organisations

You may find the following organisations useful:

  1. The Mix – free confidential help for people under 25
  2. riprap – for teenagers who have a parent with cancer
  3. Childline – website for children and young people

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Last reviewed in February 2019. The next planned review begins in February 2023.

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