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Breast masses in children and adolescents

Chantay Banikarim, MD, MPH
Nirupama K De Silva, MD
Section Editors
Jan E Drutz, MD
Amy B Middleman, MD, MPH, MS Ed
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


The overwhelming majority of breast masses in children and adolescents are benign and self-limited. Nonetheless, the finding of a breast mass can be disconcerting to the patient and her family [1,2].

The common causes of breast masses in children and adolescents and the approach to the evaluation of an adolescent with a breast mass will be discussed below. An overview of other breast disorders and breast infections in children and adolescents, and the evaluation of breast lumps in adult women, are presented separately. (See "Breast disorders in children and adolescents" and "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of a palpable breast mass" and "Mastitis and breast abscess in children and adolescents".)


Assessment of breast masses in young females can be challenging due to normal glandular variance. Initial steps in evaluation of breast masses are obtaining a detailed history and physical examination [3]. The breast examination in children and adolescents and self-breast examination in adolescents are discussed separately. (See "Breast disorders in children and adolescents", section on 'Breast examination'.)


Neonates and infants — Breast hypertrophy related to stimulation from maternal hormones can occur in both male and female neonates during the first few weeks of life (picture 1); it is sometimes associated with a thin milky nipple discharge ("witch's milk") [1]. Neonatal breast hypertrophy usually resolves spontaneously within two weeks in boys and several months in girls. However, it may persist if the breast tissue is stimulated (eg, by attempting to express the milky discharge).

Mastitis and/or breast abscess is another cause of breast enlargement in neonates. It is discussed separately. (See "Mastitis and breast abscess in infants younger than two months", section on 'Introduction'.)

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: May 09, 2017.
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