I’m 18 and I've Had Breast Reduction Surgery — Should I Be Worried About Breast Cancer?

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Question:

Hi — I’m 18 years old I had a breast reduction done about five months ago. Today, I felt a lump in my left breast. This is my first time feeling a lump in my breast. I am so scared. After doing my research on different sites, I see many say it is normal to experience a lump a few days before your period. My question is, should I wait to after my period, or make an appointment as soon as possible to see my doctor?

-Stressed Sister

Answer:

Dear Stressed Sister,

You may have heard that your lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is 1 in 8. But according to estimates from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), at age 18 your risk is about 1 in a million. In fact, the risk of a teenage girl having breast cancer is so low that neither the NCI nor the American Cancer Society formally track data for this age group.

Noncancerous breast lumps in younger women

Given that information, what’s up with that lump you feel? Starting at about age 15, women can be diagnosed with fibroadenomas, benign (not cancerous) tumors of the breast. These are often influenced by the natural hormonal fluctuations you experience during your menstrual cycle, becoming larger as your period approaches, then shrinking afterwards. That’s why, when you feel a breast lump, it’s OK to wait until after your period to see if it disappears.

You might also be feeling a cyst, which is a small, fluid-filled sac. Cysts aren’t dangerous; and, like fibroadenomas, they can appear and disappear in sync with your period.

Lumps after breast reduction surgery

Because you’ve had breast reduction surgery, it could be that the lump is scar tissue that’s gradually become large enough to feel. In addition, breast reduction surgery changes your breasts drastically; the lump you feel might have been a natural part of your anatomy that’s been there all along. But only now, as your breast continues to heal and change after surgery, is it positioned so you can feel it.

Just to be safe, you should call your doctor, let them know you’ve had breast reduction surgery, and describe the lump. They may or may not decide to determine exactly what the lump is via diagnostic screening.

However, even if screening reveals something “suspicious,” don’t panic. A study detailed on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website determined that breast reduction surgery makes it more difficult to successfully screen for breast cancer going forward, since the “architecture” of the breast (or breasts) changes. Both mammograms and ultrasounds may reveal suspicious areas that later turn out to be simply scar tissue or fat necrosis.

The bottom line

It’s highly unlikely the lump you feel is breast cancer. There’s every possibility it’s due either to your surgery or to hormones. But just to be safe, call your doctor and find out if you should come in for an exam.

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You should know: The answer above provides general health information that is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment recommendations from a qualified healthcare professional.

See more helpful articles:

Dear Sister: A Message to Our Teenage Readers

Is This Normal? A Teen Guide to Breast Development

Breast Cancer in Teens: What Are the Odds?

Answered by PJ Hamel