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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Breast Cancer
June 2000

Q. I am 16 and I recently found a small bump on my breast. I have heard that teenagers rarely get breast cancer, but I am curious to know about the bump. If it's not cancer, then what could it be? Should I see a doctor?

A. Thank you for your question on breast lumps. Indeed it would be best to see your doctor for an exam! Your observation is correct that breast cancer would be extremely unlikely in someone your age. The majority of breast cancer occurs in women older than 50, but the disease can occur in younger women. Since breast tissue is very responsive to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, the tissue can feel very different at various times in the menstrual cycle. Specifically, the tissue can feel firm, tender, and lumpy right before and during the menstrual cycle. So a good time to examine the breasts is soon after the menstrual cycle when hormone levels are low.

Breast x-rays are a helpful test to detect breast cancer but are not recommended for women under age 35-40. So in your situation, an exam by your doctor is definitely the way to proceed.

Here are two web sites that will give you additional information, including a description of breast self-exam:

  1. http://www.thebreastclinic.com/
  2. http://www.cancerhelp.com/EC-LUMP.HTM

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