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Just Diagnosed with Cancer? Chat with Experts

Sunday, November 16, 2008 youngone08, Community Member, asks

Q: What are the chances of a 20 year old getting breast cancer?

I went for a physical and my doctor found a moblie lump the size of a piece of rice and told me to come back in a month to re-check it to see if it was still there. I am very scared and just want to know my chances...?

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Answers (5)
Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
11/16/08 6:46am

According to Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, the chances that a 20 year old will develop breast cancer in the next 10 years are .05%, so your lump is probably not cancer.  It is not unusual for young women to have a type of lump called a fibroadenoma, which is not dangerous.  Women in their 20's shouldn't panic when they find a lump because it will usually be harmless.  Even in older women the vast majority of lumps that are biopsied are benign.  You are doing the right thing by getting regular check-ups.  Follow up with the doctor as he recommends just to be sure.  

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Mom of a 20 year old, Community Member
10/20/09 1:53pm

The rule of thumb should always be if you can feel the lump, have it biopsied.  My 20-year old daughter's doctor told her the same thing back in March.  In May when we fought to have the biopsy it was colloid cancer.  Stage III with no lymph nodes.  Since then she has had a lumpectomy then a double mastectomy due to lumpectomy not getting it all and then four treatments of chemo.  She will now be going on five years of tamoxifen since was hormone receptor positive.  So no just because you are in your 20's, if you feel a lump, demand a biopsy.

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
10/20/09 4:07pm

You are right.  Lumps should be biopsied regardless of the patient's age.  The original question was asking whether a 20 year old should be worried that a lump is cancer.  I intended my answer to reassure the writer that most biopsied lumps in 20 year olds will turn out to be benign, not that they shouldn't be biopsied.  As a survivor of a comparatively rare cancer, I definitely encourage biopsies of all lumps and of suspicious areas, even when there is not a lump.

I'm sorry that your daughter is having to deal with cancer at such a young age, and hope that the surgery, chemo, and tamoxifen will give her many years of health.

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mommyof4girls, Community Member
12/ 6/10 3:53pm

I have a lump under my arm and my Dr wanted me to get an ultrasound of it and the ultrasound Dr said it was cyst should i jest be happy with that and not worry about it. i all so we to the Dr today and i have a lump in by breast is been their for 3 years it has gotten bigger he wants me to get an ultra sound of it should i still push for and biopsy? I'm 25.

 

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
12/ 6/10 5:25pm

Usually ultrasounds are very good at identifying cysts, so if the doctor says it's a cyst, most probably it is. You may be dealing with fibrocystic change, very common in women your age. However, if you're very worried, I'd ask for a mammogram; that should show if the lump in your breast is solid, and whether it would require further testing: perhaps an MRI, perhaps a biopsy. Luckily, at your age breast cancer is very rare, so odds are this is something else. Hope this helps - PJH

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Sarah, Community Member
11/12/09 12:14am

Hello, this is slightly unrelated however, I'm a twenty year old and one of my breasts have been hurting badly the last few weeks. I have also noticed the appearance of two red blotches on that breast. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with breast cancer and if I should see a doctor about it.

 

Advice would be greatly appreciated!

 

Thanks!

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
11/12/09 5:24am

This article on some common types of breast rashes may help you understand some possible causes for your red blotches. If the pain comes and goes and if the red places are getting better on their own, you probably can watch and see what happens before deciding if you need to call the doctor.  But since this is more than discomfort (you use the phrase "hurting badly") and it's been going on for a while, calling the doctor would be a good idea.  Although there is a rare type of breast cancer that can cause pain and redness, there are also many benign causes of your symptoms.  Don't panic about this, but do get it checked out.

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harley, Community Member
1/29/12 4:26pm

hi im a 20 year old female and have had pain in my left breast and under arm for about a month now and i felt my breast as it felt rather full and felt a lump im not sure if im just over reacting or not but could it be breast cancer? 

 

thanks

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
1/29/12 5:08pm

Although most breast lumps and breast pain are NOT cancer; and you'd be extremely young to be diagnosed with breast cancer, it's still a very slight possibility. Since you've been experiencing these symptoms for over a month, it's time to see a doctor; any time you notice a breast change that lasts longer than a month, it needs to be diagnosed and treated, if necessary. Good luck - PJH

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r, Community Member
11/19/13 6:52pm

I was 22, I looked at my left breast in the mirror. There was this small bump, like a very small hill near my nipple. We went to doctor, got physical breast exam said he didnt feel anything odd, I got a 2nd opinion and ultrasound and they found nothing. I went and got a 3rd opinion and he said the same thing. From the beginning that I saw the bump, my left breast always hurts all the way through my arm, armpit and back.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
11/19/13 9:22pm

Your next step would be to get a mammogram; and if this is stressing you out (which it sounds like it is), why not go ahead and get the ball rolling? The doctor probably won't want you to have one, as your risk of breast cancer, at your age, is tiny; but if you feel you really want to continue down the diagnostic path and find out what's causing this lump, then let the doctor know the stress associated with this symptom, with its unknown cause, is affecting your daily life, and you want to take action and get things resolved. Good luck - PJH

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r, Community Member
11/19/13 10:17pm

Do you know what causes the pain?. All through out my arm too. I'm 23 now. Still the same problem. Almost a year or more than a year already this has been going on. Sometimes stabbing pain or extreme pain. The doctors did not feel anything on my left breast. It's painful when nearing my period but it also hurts after.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
11/20/13 5:15am

Hi - We aren't doctors here, simply well-read breast cancer survivors. As such, we can offer advice based on our own experiences, but can't diagnose, or provide medical advice. Since this pain is on your left side, I assume your doctor has ruled out heart issues?

 

Our post on breast pain might ofer you some further insight; but beyond that, I think you need to keep working through the medical system (getting an opinion from a breast specialist, perhaps) to find the root cause of this pain. Take care - PJH

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
11/20/13 7:43am

Since three doctors have looked at the lump and don't feel anything odd, I am guessing that the bump is within the range of normal.  Many women have lumpy breasts; it's just their normal.  Since this is near your nipple and is visible in a mirror, I'm wondering if one of your Montgomery glands, those small bumps in the aureola, is larger than the others.  Most breast cancer lumps are deep in the breast in the milk ducts.  What you are describing does not sound like typical breast cancer.  

I do think you want to keep on investigating the pain.  It is not unusual for women to have breast pain of unknown origin.  Sometimes breasts just hurt, and doctors never find the cause.  If new symptoms like redness and swelling never show up, there may not be much doctors can do for it.  But your pain is on just one side, so it makes sense to me that a breast specialist might be able to help you with the pain.  Keep in mind that pain we feel in one place sometimes starts somewhere else.  You could be feeling referred pain from  your heart, from nearby muscles, or your ribs.  I hope you soon find the source of this pain and feel better.

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r, Community Member
11/23/13 7:53pm

Okay. Thank you. I also have pain on my armpit all through out my arm. Just scared you know. What can be the cause of armpit pain?

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
11/23/13 9:09pm

Sorry we can't be of more help to you. We're not doctors, simply well-read breast cancer survivors; so wouldn't be able to advise on armpit pain. You seem very stressed about this; I'd suggest you continue to pursue finding answers to your questions via the only channel that can truly help you, the medical community. Good luck - PJH

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
11/23/13 10:24pm

You really do need to check with a doctor.  Although you are very young to have heart problems, pain that is running down your left arm could be heart related.  Pain in your armpit could be pressure on a nerve, a pulled muscle, or an infected lymph node.  The possible causes range from problems that are a nuisance, but not dangerous, to serious issues.  No one could diagnose the actual cause over the internet.  A doctor would do a physical exam and be able to note tender spots, swelling, and so forth.  Blood tests and/or imaging tests would give the doctor more information to make a diagnosis.  I hope the doctor can find out what is wrong and that the problem is not serious.

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r, Community Member
12/ 5/13 10:09pm

Thank you so much. Also, I noticed a that my left breast shape kind of changed along with its pain. I am really scared 24 year old. I am very confused as to why the 3 doctors did not find anything and even an ultrasound did not show anything abnormal. I am highly stressed about this. We have a scheduled appointment with a breast specialist tomorrow but my stress level is on an all time high.

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
12/ 6/13 5:58am

Make a list of all the problems you have mentioned.  Write everything down so that you don't forget to mention anything at your appointment with the breast specialist.  Be sure to include the issues that don't seem to be breast related because the breasts are part of a complex hormonal system that includes your entire body.  Good for you for seeing a specialist.  I hope all goes well at your appointment.

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r, Community Member
12/ 7/13 2:45am

Just got back from the appointment. The doctor did not feel anything weird on my left breast and told me that the breast shape changed could be related to me having lost weight. But I told her that I had a nipple discharge and had me scheduled an ultrasound. She did not look concerned about it, told me it might be hormonal but just to be sure, she told to go get an ultrasound done.

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
12/ 7/13 8:35am

It sounds like this is a very thorough doctor, and that you will be able to trust her judgment.  I hope that everything checks out OK on the ultrasound so that you are able to put your worries aside.  Let us know what the ultrasound shows.

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r, Community Member
12/10/13 8:58pm

Hi, my schedule for breast ultrasound is on the 21st. Just wondering what are the chances of me getting breast cancer. I'm 23 years old female with no history of it in the family. Also, will an ultrasound rule out breast cancer and what are the usual results in an ultrasound?. I forgot to mention that I had a breast discharge on my left breast that was milky. My left breast also hurts sometimes.

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
12/10/13 9:18pm

According to statistics compiled by the American Cancer Society, the chances of a women in the United States in the age range from birth to 39 years of age are less than one percent (1 in 200).  An ultrasound will probably give the doctor a better view of what is happening in your breast better than a mammogram because mammograms are usually ineffective in young women who have denser breasts than older women.  It can not absolutely rule out cancer, but if it shows an area that looks suspicious, then the doctor can do a biopsy.  The statistical chances that you have cancer are extremely low, so I would advise that you assume that whatever is causing your discharge and occasional pain is not cancer.

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r, Community Member
12/10/13 9:23pm

Wow, thank you for the very quick reply. I am from the Philippines. There is also a thickening on my left brest, the top right of my nipple which the doctor said could be the cause of my weight loss. But the doctor did not feel anything in my left breast, so I guess there is really nothing to worry about. Sorry for being persistent, just wanted to talk about this with someone.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
12/11/13 7:51am

You've come to the right place to chat about your symptoms. While we're not doctors, we're here to provide emotional support as well as non-medical advice as you go through the process of finding out what's causing these symptoms. Good luck - I hope, for the sake of your stress levels, the tests get to the bottom of this soon! PJH 

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
12/11/13 7:56am

I'm glad we can be here for you to have someone to talk to about this.  I don't know the statistics for breast cancer in the Philippines, but I would think that they would be similar to rates in the US in terms of breast cancer being very rare for women in their 20's and more frequent for women as they age.  

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r, Community Member
12/26/13 4:53am

Hi, I just got the Ultrasound results and it said Category 1: Negative. It also said "No Lesions Found." I just want to know what it means.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
12/26/13 9:09am

This means according to the ultrasound, your breast is normal. If you continue to have issues, and at any time feel a lump, then you might want to explore having a mammogram; but it seems like you've done all you can up to now. Hopefully these test results will allay your fears. Take care - PJH

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r, Community Member
1/10/14 10:25pm

Hi, is breast ultrasound for my age, accurate?. When will be the time for me to go back to the doctors?. Should I stop worrying like crazy. 

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
1/11/14 7:41am
Ultrasounds are extremely accurate at distinguishing cysts from solid tumors. They can also be better than a mammogram in many cases for diagnosing breast problems in younger women whose breast tissue is usually denser than that of older women. You need to check with your doctor for when your next appointment should be. Yes, it is time to stop worrying and to start rejoicing that your tests were normal. I'm so happy that everything checked out fine. Reply
doofdoof, Community Member
11/ 9/11 4:10am

This post is heaps old but for further readers- Im 20 years old and i first noticed a lump in my right breast, found it bout dec 10 - jan 11, finally told my mother about it at the end of aug and then eventually was encouraged to go to the doctors. I didn't think it would be cancer based on my age and no known family history. my doctor did an examination then sent me for a ultrasound. The ultrasound ruled out it being a cyst and said it was a solid moveable lump. doc sent me back to the radiologist for a biopsy. Was meant to get a core biopsy but the radiologist said there was no need as a fine needle biopsy would be able to work the same. It came back as being benign. my doc and i both agreed that it would be best to get the lump removed sooner rather than later. So i was referred to a breast surgeon and went for a consultation on the 3/11/11  and was booked in for surgery on monday (7/11/11). I have a little discomfort but other than that i feel okay , so far i believe the surgery went well. My surgeon was a lovely guy, seeing him tomorrow to see how things went and the lab results of the lump. fingers crossed its benign like the radiologist results indicated. My message is for anyone that has found a lump and are worried about it to go and get it checked out for peace of mind.

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
11/ 9/11 6:20am

We are crossing our fingers with you that you get a good pathology report.  Although breast cancer in women your age is rare, you were wise to investigate it.  Rare doesn't mean "never," so all breast changes need to be checked out.  At the same time, young women shouldn't live in fear of something so unlikely to occur.  It's much more productive for young women to put their concern into actions like getting exercise and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.  These are actions can reduce life-long breast cancer risk.

Please let us know how the doctor's appointment goes.  The odds are we will celebrate your good report with you.  If the report is not so good, we can direct you to the resources you will need.

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confused, Community Member
11/21/11 8:35am

Hi Doctor , my husband who is 26 years of age , has this lump on his left breast. he first discovered in 10 years ago and had it checked with the doctor and prescribed him some antibiotic but it was still there , we check with another surgeon 6 months ago done some ultrasound and said that nothing to worry we can left it there or we can removed it. Me, being so worried I ask him to consult another doctor , does an ultrasound with this findings 0.6 mm x 6.6 solid mass and probably fibroadenoma but advise for biopsy.

Im so worried now because it was for a long time now , doctors says that if it is serious it should have not reach for 10 years now.

We decided to remove it and had it biopsied we are just waiting for insurance approval.

Do think this 10 years of leaving it behind has something we must concerned about?

Thanks

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
11/21/11 8:48am

The expert patients aren't doctors here, just breast cancer survivors who are well-informed about cancer issues.  Your doctors are right; a cancerous lump would have grown in ten years and caused more problems by now.  However, I can understand why your husband would want it out.  I hope the insurance approval comes soon, so that you can be reassured that all is indeed well.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
12/ 5/13 11:06pm

Statistically speaking, very, very small. For teenagers, the risk is less than 1 in a milliion. Since you're still nearly a teen, the risk is almost equally low. Please try not to panic over this; if the doctor thought there was any chance of this being breast cancer, s/he would have done further testing right away, not wait a month. Also, the lump you describe doesn't fit the characteristics of a cancerous lump. I know it's hard to wait, but try to keep busy, be realistic (the odds are SOOO in your favor), go about your life, and you'll find your worry abating as the days go by. Good luck - I hope you feel less anxious soon! PJH

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christina.paden123, Community Member
8/ 7/14 10:58pm

HI! I'm 19 years old... and as far as I know I don't have anyone know my family who has had breast cancer... but 3 says ago out of no where under my left arm on my lower arm pit there was this bump. I thought it was a ingrown half so I squeezed it and liquids came out but there was no puss or anything but the size went down but when I gently rub over it , it hurts a little?  I have an apointmentwith the Gyno in a week but I'M just scared should I be concerned?  It feels like the size of it went down but I don't know...

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
8/ 8/14 5:19am

Christina, this has every indication of being a small infection, much like a pimple. If this were a cancerous lump, you wouldn't be able to squeeze liquid out of it; nor would its size diminish due to anything you did; nor would it hurt. So please try not to stress as you wait for your appointment; I'm sure your doctor will quickly be able to determine what this is, and treat it. Take care - PJH

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kacielackey, Community Member
8/10/14 4:00am

If someone could please guide me in the right direction. I am 20 years old, my maternal grandmother just recently beat breast cancer, and my mother has had several benign masses. This week, the bottom of my left breast has been tender when pushed or squeezed, and the center of the breast that is normally dense feels quite a bit thicker than the right side, however there are no distinguishable lumps. I am terrified of what the combination of my signs and symptoms + my family history might spell out for me. I know I should see a doctor, I'm just curious what you all think, what I should ask the doctor to do (physical exam, ultrasound, mammogram, biopsy?), and how likely is this thickening and pain to be something serious in someone my age? 

 

Any insight is greatly appreciated; as I mentioned before, I am terrified of what this might mean for me.

 

Thank you.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
8/10/14 5:42am

Kacie, first of all, please try not to stress. You don't have a significant family history of breast cancer; your risk would be increased if your mom or a sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer, but that's (apparently) not the case; so your risk is the same as that of any normal 20-year-old. The overall risk of women up to age 20 is less than a million to one; and being just barely beyond that risk pool, at age 20, your risk isn't increased much from that figure. So just looking at it by the numbers, your chance of having breast cancer is extremely small.

 

In addition, the pain you describe doesn't sound like a typical breast cancer symptom; instead, it sounds like a hormonal issue, something related to your menstrual cycle. Many women develop sore breasts, as well as breasts that feel larger, just before their period; and the pain can be felt in both breasts, or either individually. If your period is due within a week or so, you might want to wait and see if the pain lessens once you're through it.

 

The pain might also be due to a cyst, which can produce the symptoms you describe. While basically harmless, cysts can be quite uncomfortable; and they become more and more common as you get into your 20s. If your doctor suspects a cyst, you'll probably have an ultrasound, which is the best test to diagnose this condition.

 

So, here's my advice (and understand I'm not a doctor; only your doctor can diagnose what's causing your pain). If your period is approaching, and the pain/swelling aren't accompanied by redness/heat and/or getting much worse, wait it out and see if everything returns to normal once your period is over. 

 

If you're not about to get your period, see your doctor to find out what's causing the pain. There's no need for you to ask the doctor for any specific test; s/he'll know what to order. Go through the diagnostic process, but don't be surprised if there's no conclusive result; the causes of breast pain can often be elusive. Thankfully, though, breast pain is seldom related to cancer. Take care - PJH

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By youngone08, Community Member— Last Modified: 08/10/14, First Published: 11/16/08