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Radiographics. 2009 May-Jun;29(3):907-31. doi: 10.1148/rg.293095010.

From the archives of the AFIP: breast masses in children and adolescents: radiologic-pathologic correlation.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Rd, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.


The spectrum of breast lesions in children and adolescents varies markedly from that for adults, with the former lesions being overwhelmingly benign. A breast mass in a young boy or girl may arise from normal and abnormal breast development. Other causes of masses include infection, trauma, and cyst formation. After onset of puberty, most cases of breast enlargement arise from benign fibroadenoma in girls and gynecomastia in boys. These conditions have specific imaging appearances, although juvenile (often giant) fibroadenoma cannot be distinguished from phyllodes tumor, which can be benign or malignant. In children, both conditions usually appear as well-circumscribed, hypoechoic masses at sonography and show diffuse enhancement except for nonenhancing septations at magnetic resonance imaging. A diagnosis of juvenile papillomatosis (a benign lesion) portends later development of breast cancer, and patients with this condition should be closely monitored. Malignant lesions of the breast in children are rare. The most common malignant lesions are metastases and are usually associated with widespread disease. The most common primary breast malignancy is malignant phyllodes tumor. Primary breast carcinoma is exceedingly rare in the pediatric age group, but its imaging appearance in children is the same as seen in adults and is different from that of almost all benign lesions. In girls, diagnostic interventions may injure the developing breast and cause subsequent disfigurement. Given this risk and the low prevalence of malignant disease in this population, a prudent course should be followed in the diagnosis of breast lesions. Imaging findings are very helpful for selecting patients for further diagnostic procedures. Although malignancy is rare, lesions with suspicious imaging findings or progressive growth should be subjected to cytologic or histologic examination.

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