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Fibroadenoma is the most frequent breast tumor seen in children.[1,2] Sudden rapid enlargement of a suspected fibroadenoma is an indication for needle biopsy or excision, as rare transformation leading to malignant phyllodes tumors has been reported.
Other benign lesions include tubular adenoma, benign phyllodes tumor, and benign fibroepithelial neoplasm.
Treatment of Fibroadenoma
Treatment options for fibroadenoma include the following:
Treatment options for phyllodes tumors include the following:
Incidence and Outcome
Breast cancer has been reported in both males and females younger than 21 years.[1,2,3,4,5,6,7] A review of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database of the National Cancer Institute shows that 75 cases of malignant breast tumors in females aged 19 years or younger were identified from 1973 to 2004. Fifteen percent of these patients had in situ disease, 85% had invasive disease, 55% of the tumors were carcinomas, and 45% of the tumors were sarcomas—most of which were phyllodes tumors. Only three patients in the carcinoma group presented with metastatic disease, while 11 patients (27%) had regionally advanced disease. All patients with sarcomas presented with localized disease. Of the carcinoma patients, 85% underwent surgical resection, and 10% received adjuvant radiation therapy. Of the sarcoma patients, 97% had surgical resection, and 9% received radiation. The 5- and 10-year survival rates for patients with sarcomatous tumors were both 90%; for patients with carcinomas, the 5-year survival rate was 63% and the 10-year survival rate was 54%.
A National Cancer Database report described 181 cases of breast malignancy in patients aged 21 years and younger; 65% of patients had invasive carcinoma and the remaining patients had sarcoma or malignant phyllodes. In this study, the authors compared the pediatric patients with the adult patients and found that pediatric patients were more likely to have an undifferentiated malignancy, more advanced disease at presentation, and more variable management. Outcomes between children and adults were similar.
A subsequent report from the SEER database (1973–2009) discovered 91 girls aged 10 to 20 years with breast cancer, predominantly carcinomas (57% invasive, 5.5% in situ) and sarcomas (37%, mostly phyllodes tumors). The mortality rate was 46.6% for patients with regional disease and 18.7% for patients with localized disease. The mortality rates for the patients in this study were higher than the rates for premenopausal and postmenopausal women, although the sample size was small.[Level of evidence: 3iiA]
While rare, breast cancer has also been described in males. In a review of the National Cancer Database, 677 male adolescents and young adults were diagnosed with breast cancer during the period of 1998 to 2010; most patients (82%) had invasive disease. Age younger than 25 years and absence of nodal evaluation at the time of surgery were associated with worse outcomes.
Breast tumors may also occur as metastatic deposits from leukemia, rhabdomyosarcoma, other sarcomas, or lymphoma (particularly in patients who are infected with HIV).
Risk factors for breast cancer in adolescents and young adults (AYA) include the following:
Mammograms with adjunctive breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) start at age 25 years or 10 years postexposure to radiation therapy (whichever came last). (Refer to the PDQ summary on the Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information about secondary breast cancers.)
Treatment of Breast Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (AYA)
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among AYA women aged 15 to 39 years, accounting for about 14% of all AYA cancer diagnoses. Breast cancer in this age group has a more aggressive course and worse outcome than in older women. Expression of hormone receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) on breast cancer in the AYA group is also different from that in older women and correlates with a worse prognosis.[11,17] In a review of data from the National Cancer Database, AYA patients (aged 15–39 years) had more triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) or HER2-positive (HER2+) cancer than did adult patients (TNBC: 21.2% vs. 13.8%, respectively; HER2+: 26.0% vs. 18.6%, respectively; both P < .001). In addition, AYA patients aged 15 to 29 years had more advanced disease and TNBC or HER2+ disease than did AYA patients aged 30 to 39 years.[Level of evidence: 3iA]
Treatment of the AYA group is similar to that of older women. However, unique aspects of management must include attention to genetic implications (i.e., familial breast cancer syndromes) and fertility.[19,20]
(Refer to the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Treatment [Adult] or the PDQ summary on Genetics of Breast and Gynecologic Cancers for more information.)
Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Childhood and AYA Breast Cancer
Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:
Tumor tissue from progressive or recurrent disease must be available for molecular characterization. Patients with tumors that have molecular variants addressed by treatment arms included in the trial will be offered treatment on Pediatric MATCH. Additional information can be obtained on the NCI website and ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975. Referral to medical centers with multidisciplinary teams of cancer specialists experienced in treating cancers that occur in childhood and adolescence should be considered for children and adolescents with cancer. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the following health care professionals and others to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will achieve optimal survival and quality of life:
(Refer to the PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care summaries for specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer.)
Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics. At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate in these trials is offered to most patients and their families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapy for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50%. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close monitoring because cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)
Childhood cancer is a rare disease, with about 15,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States in individuals younger than 20 years. The U.S. Rare Diseases Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects populations smaller than 200,000 persons. Therefore, all pediatric cancers are considered rare.
The designation of a rare tumor is not uniform among pediatric and adult groups. Adult rare cancers are defined as those with an annual incidence of fewer than six cases per 100,000 people, and they are estimated to account for up to 24% of all cancers diagnosed in the European Union and about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States.[5,6] Also, the designation of a pediatric rare tumor is not uniform among international groups, as follows:
Most cancers within subgroup XI are either melanomas or thyroid cancer, with the remaining subgroup XI cancer types accounting for only 1.3% of cancers in children aged 0 to 14 years and 5.3% of cancers in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.
These rare cancers are extremely challenging to study because of the low incidence of patients with any individual diagnosis, the predominance of rare cancers in the adolescent population, and the lack of clinical trials for adolescents with rare cancers.
Information about these tumors may also be found in sources relevant to adults with cancer such as the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Treatment (Adult).
The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.
Childhood Breast Cancer
Added text to state that in a review of data from the National Cancer Database, adolescents and young adult (AYA) patients had more triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) or HER2-positive (HER2+) cancer than did adult patients. In addition, AYA patients aged 15 to 29 years had more advanced disease and TNBC or HER2+ disease than did AYA patients aged 30 to 39 years (cited Murphy et al. as reference 18 and level of evidence 3iA).
This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ® - NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of childhood breast cancer. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
Reviewers and Updates
This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:
Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.
The lead reviewers for Childhood Breast Cancer Treatment are:
Any comments or questions about the summary content should be submitted to Cancer.gov through the NCI website's Email Us. Do not contact the individual Board Members with questions or comments about the summaries. Board members will not respond to individual inquiries.
Levels of Evidence
Some of the reference citations in this summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board uses a formal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations.
Permission to Use This Summary
PDQ is a registered trademark. Although the content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text, it cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless it is presented in its entirety and is regularly updated. However, an author would be permitted to write a sentence such as "NCI's PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks succinctly: [include excerpt from the summary]."
The preferred citation for this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Breast Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/hp/child-breast-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
Images in this summary are used with permission of the author(s), artist, and/or publisher for use within the PDQ summaries only. Permission to use images outside the context of PDQ information must be obtained from the owner(s) and cannot be granted by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the illustrations in this summary, along with many other cancer-related images, is available in Visuals Online, a collection of over 2,000 scientific images.
Based on the strength of the available evidence, treatment options may be described as either "standard" or "under clinical evaluation." These classifications should not be used as a basis for insurance reimbursement determinations. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Managing Cancer Care page.
More information about contacting us or receiving help with the Cancer.gov website can be found on our Contact Us for Help page. Questions can also be submitted to Cancer.gov through the website's Email Us.
Last Revised: 2020-06-08
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