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Cancer. This one word alone has ruined so many lives. In 2021, over 10 million people died of cancer. Wondering what you can do about it and why I am telling you this? Because as many times as you may have heard, precaution is better than cure. And till today there is no rigid cure for cancer.
Breast cancer is a type of invasive cancer that forms in the breast cells. It can develop in one or both breasts as cells grow out of control and in rapid numbers. Both old and younger women are most commonly diagnosed with breast cancer.
It can also occur in men, but cases are not as expected. A question that arises most frequently is can teenagers get breast cancer too?
How And When Can Teenagers Get Breast Cancer
There has been substantial research and awareness regarding breast cancer in recent years. With advances in diagnosing breast cancer, treatment facilities, and proper funds, survival rates have increased.
The primary reason for declining death rates is that doctors detect cancer early on and prescribe treatment efficiently and effectively. The disease and its causes are better understood.
Also, people want to know if there has been enough research about breast cancer risk in teens. Can teenagers get breast cancer just as adult women?
Most common breast lumps are benign and not malignant. Malignant tumours are cancerous. A non-cancerous benign breast tumour is an abnormal growth that does not spread or invade the surrounding tissue. They do not cause any harm. However, some types can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Therefore, if there is any presence of a lump, a doctor should check it out and determine the risk of cancer. Are the symptoms and causes of teen breast cancer the same? How and when can teenagers get breast cancer?
This article will emphasize female breast cancer and its causes, symptoms, and risks. But, can teenagers get breast cancer too? For this, we shall further be looking at teenage breast cancer.
Can Teenagers Get Breast Cancer?
To answer the question of – one can teenagers get breast cancer – let us delve deeper into details about the human anatomy. We shall be looking at how and when can teenagers get breast cancer later on.
Anatomy of the Breast
How and when can teenagers get breast cancer? To better understand the question, knowledge of breast anatomy will be helpful.
The breast is an organ that lies over the pectoralis muscle and the ribs. There are two breasts on the left and right-hand sides.
A woman having dense breasts is average and not a cause for concern. There are three main parts in the breast: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. Connective, glandular, and fatty tissues make up the breast.
Women with dense breasts are likely to have more fibrous and glandular tissue than others. They will have less fatty tissue.
The epithelial tissue in the female breast consists of specialized lobules connecting to ducts leading to the nipple. The ducts and lobules are spread all over the connective tissues making up most of the breast and holding everything together. Lobules produce milk for breastfeeding infants and babies.
The horizontal extent of the breast is from the sternum to the midaxillary line. The Axillary tail of Spence is breast tissue that goes into the axilla or the underarm, and people sometimes mistake it for a breast lump.
In males, the breast structure is similar to that of females, apart from the lack of specialized lobules. As there is no milk production in males, it is unnecessary.
Developing Breast Cancer: Where Does it Start?
Types of Breast Cancer
There are numerous types of cancer, all of which are determined by cancer cells affecting specific breast cells. Cancer differs depending on where the affected cells are located. If we look at young breast cancer patients, can teenagers get breast cancer too?
The origin of breast cancer can be from separate parts of the breast. Nearly all cancers are caused by the cells forming the lobules and ducts.
The different parts of the breast and the cancers associated with it are:
- Lobules – glands producing breast milk
Cancers that start here – lobular carcinoma
- Ducts – canals coming out from the lobules and carry the milk to the nipple
Cancers that start here – ductal carcinoma
- Nipple – is an opening in the breast skin for breastfeeding babies. The areola is a slightly darker, thicker skin that surrounds the nipple.
Cancers that start here – Paget’s disease
- Stroma – Fat and connective tissue surrounding the ducts and lobules and keeps them in place.
Cancers that start here – phyllodes tumour
- Blood vessels and lymph vessels
Cancers that start here – Angiosarcoma
Signs, Symptoms, and Risk
Females may detect a cancer risk in their bodies if they have one or most of the following symptoms. They are, in no particular order-
- The most common symptom is a thickened area of skin or maybe a lump in the breast or an armpit.
- Changes in the appearance, size, and shape of the whole breast
- Sunken nipple, nipple discharge, or rashes
- The skin surrounding the areola peeling, flaking or scaling
- Pitting of the skin or redness
- Persisting painful lump
How Can Teenagers Get Breast Cancer?
We have all read the types, signs, and women with a risk of breast cancer. But how exactly can teenagers get breast cancer?
Research has stated that the numbers are so low in this age group that it is not enough to keep statistics. There are risks, but chances are sporadic.
Regardless of it not being cancer, changes in average breast growth due to puberty are a cause of concern to several. Therefore, one should carefully monitor any abnormal changes in their body for reassurance.
So, when can teenagers get breast cancer? It is probably unlikely to happen.
Causes of Breast Cancer
Abnormal cells in the breast cause cancer. When these cells divide rapidly and grow out of control, they accumulate and form a lump.
Abnormal cells continue to develop faster than healthy cells and they may spread and metastasize from the breast to several areas in the body.
Hormones, environmental factors, and a person’s lifestyle increase the risks of the disease. However, it is not always likely that people with risk factors develop breast cancer when others without any risks do not.
Research estimates that family genes cause approximately 5-10% of cancer cases. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are linked with the causes. Individuals with a family history should get tests done to identify gene mutations in their bodies.
Breast density is essential as women with dense tissue have a higher risk of cancer. Possible reasons are that abnormal cells might develop. Furthermore, dense tissue makes it harder to detect cancer on mammogram examinations.
Individuals likely to have dense breasts are younger women, pregnant or breastfeeding women, those taking hormone replacement therapy, and those with less body weight.
Can teenagers get breast cancer when their breast density is high? Those with dense tissue should talk with healthcare professionals. Individuals should get a mammogram done regularly, and those with increased risks should also have an MRI done.
Breast cancer causes gradual pain. Breast lumps are usually painless, and pain in the breast is generally connected to one’s menstrual cycle. Individuals suffering from persisting breast pain unrelated to their menstrual cycle should get a check-up done.
How Does it Spread?
The chances of cancer spreading to other body parts are elevated when undetected cancer cells are carried into the blood or lymph system. The lymph system is a network of lymph nodes, ducts or vessels, and organs. The lymph vessels carry the lymph fluid away.
Cancerous cells can enter blood and lymph vessels and grow in lymph nodes. In such cases, there is a possibility that they have already spread to various body parts and have metastasized.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
The risks that are associated with cancer are several. Can teenagers get breast cancer when they have high stakes? Possibly, if there is a particular history in their family. Also, many individuals have no known risk factors apart from being a woman.
Other factors are increasing age, dense breast tissue, increased alcohol consumption, family history, genes, radiation exposure, and more.
Individuals who have had cancer in one breast are likely to develop it in the other. Those who began menstruating when they were young girls aged 12 or lesser, those who had menopause or children at a later age or had never been pregnant, and those who took post-menopause hormone therapy medications developed cancer.
If there is the presence of lumps or a change in appearance, one should immediately make a doctor’s appointment. Although an individual’s routine mammogram or breast exams have typical results, they should go to the doctor for further evaluation.
A breast examination helps indicate changes or the presence of a lump or any bump in a woman’s breast. It helps check nothing unusual is going on in the body.
The examination is usually done in the age group of 20 and above.
Can teenagers get breast cancer? Do they need a breast exam? Most teenage girls do not have to, as teen breast cancer cases are sporadic.
Doctors will look up breast development, but if there is a history of breast problems in the family, a breast exam is necessary. Professionals will examine for things like breast cysts in young women.
While going through normal hormonal fluctuations, teenage girls will have fibrocystic breast changes. This can confuse breast cancer in teens. However, a breast lump in teens is part of average breast growth.
Fibrocystic breasts occur when breasts have non-cancerous fluid-filled sacs that change according to menstruation and hormone changes. A fibrocystic breast doesn’t need medical treatment.
So, can teenagers get breast cancer? Not really, as according to a 2020 study by the American Cancer Society, breast cancer in teens between ages 15-19 from 2012 to 2016 was 0.1 in 100,000. It means that 1 in a million was at risk of breast cancer.
Treatments depend upon numerous factors such as the cancer stage and hormone sensitivity while considering the individual’s age, health, and preferences for therapy or surgery. The treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted drug therapy.
1. Radiation therapy
Individuals undergo a treatment wherein they are subjected to cancer-killing beams for a certain period after surgery. It will help kill the cancer cells that remain.
Doctors have drugs directly injected into patients to kill cancerous cells at risk of spreading or recurrence in this treatment. Individuals are recommended chemotherapy before or after surgery, whichever works better.
The different types that come under surgery are-
- A lumpectomy involves removing the tumour and the healthy tissue surrounding it.
- Mastectomy involves removing the breast’s lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, nipple, areola, and some skin.
- Sentinel node biopsy – It is done when cancer reaches the sentinel lymph nodes
- Axillary lymph node dissection is done when abnormal cells get to the sentinel nodes and lymph nodes in the armpit area are removed.
- Reconstruction – Reconstruction is done after the mastectomy process. The breast is reconstructed to look more natural.
4. Hormone-Blocking Therapy
Individuals not suitable for surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy are recommended for this treatment. It aims to prevent breast cancers that are hormone-sensitive from returning after therapy.
5. Targeted Drug Therapy
Targeted drugs are used to destroy particular types of cancer.
Regular cancer screening tests are a must. To reduce risks, an individual should make specific changes to their lifestyle. People should, for some familiarity, do breast self-exams. If there are changes or signs such as a lump, they should make a doctor’s appointment.
Alcohol consumption is to be moderated. Individuals should exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet for a healthy body and mind. They should talk with their doctors for awareness and understanding of the disease to better prevent it.
If an individual’s conditions are high-risk, the chances of cancer may increase. In such cases, doctors are to provide preventive medications. There is also the option of surgery. Prophylactic breast surgery is when individuals remove their healthy breasts to reduce risks.
Cancer Rates and Recent Findings
In recent years, there have been advances in cancer treatments. Surveys show that survival rates have dramatically improved.
Rates were seen to be no longer declining. The American Cancer Society states that breast cancer compared to 1989 declined by nearly 40% in 2017. However, in 2019, rates show that cases occur in adult women between the 20 to 39 age group.
Reports by the American Cancer Society show that there are about 4 million breast cancer survivors in the US and more. One in 38 individuals dies from breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute in the US has assessed that nearly 90% of young women diagnosed with breast cancer survive for a minimum of five years after their diagnosis.
So, can teenagers get breast cancer? Yes, teen breast cancer cases occur, but they are infrequent.
A better understanding will not prevent cancer, but it will make us aware of our body’s changes, whether unusual or usual.
When individuals grow awareness, it might help reduce breast cancer deaths. Risk levels eventually return but delaying treatment options are highly inadvisable.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How does breast cancer start?
The aberrant growth of some breast cells is what causes breast cancer, according to doctors. These cells continue to multiply and divide more quickly than healthy cells do, causing a tumour or lump.
2. What age does breast cancer start?
Women 50 years of age or older are the ones most likely to develop breast cancer.
3. Can breast cancer be cured?
Breast cancer is extremely curable, and most patients who receive the right care go on to lead long, healthy lives. Nonetheless, the diagnosis might still cause a lot of anxiety and is not an easy journey.