Breast buds are tender, raised bumps that appear directly under a girl’s nipples. It’s not unusual for breast buds to appear on just one side first. As a result, there have been many frantic but unnecessary trips to the doctor when a lump has suddenly appeared under a single nipple of a young girl.
Similarly, a mother can understandably become concerned when one side of her daughter’s chest is noticeably larger than the other. (For reasons that are not entirely understood, this usually occurs on a girl’s left side.) This is not uncommon. Approximately 25% of adolescent girls experience breast asymmetry that persists into adulthood. Later in life, corrective measures can be taken to “even out” this difference in the size of a woman’s breasts. (However, the difference between each breast is typically not that noticeable.)
What are signs of breast problems in my daughter?
Once your daughter develops breast buds, she may experience nipple discharge. This is usually caused by irritation to the area, or by an elevated level of the hormone prolactin. Increased hormone levels may be the result of medications your daughter is taking or by a growth on her pituitary gland. Therefore, if your daughter experiences nipple discharge, you should take her to your pediatrician to be evaluated.
Your daughter may also develop a mass in her breast, even at a young age. Thankfully, the vast majority of these growths are completely benign. Although a trip to the doctor’s office is necessary to evaluate the mass, biopsies of the area are greatly frowned-upon by doctors because of the risk of damaging a girl’s breast bud. In almost all instances, the masses resolve themselves, remain without causing any problems, or disappear with the use of antibiotics.
One thing you can feel good about is the fact that breast cancer is extremely rare in adolescents. In fact, studies show that from 1998 to 2002, the incidence of breast cancer in females below the age of 20 was 0 cases for every 100,000 people. That’s right; zero cases. Now, that doesn’t mean it never happens, but it’s not some- thing that you should spend your time worrying about.
What can my daughter do to relieve breast pain?
Unfortunately, breast pain or discomfort is common in adolescent girls. It usually happens in cycles and occurs just before she menstruates. Research has shown that this pain can be increased if a girl drinks anything with caffeine in it, whether it’s coffee, soda, or an energy drink. (And, as a further incentive not to use cigarettes, you should let your daughter know that smoking also tends to increase breast pain.)
A breast surgeon I know tells his patients who experience breast pain to avoid caffeinated products, chocolate, and peanuts; to use over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen as needed; and to wear only well-fitted, supportive bras. That’s good advice for all of us women. (Except for the “no chocolate” part, of course.)