10-year-old Girl Battling Breast Cancer

what moms need to know about breast cancer and children

For Your Health

10-year-old Girl Battles Breast Cancer

What moms need to know

-Lissa Rankin, M.D., Betty’s OB/GYN on Call

The tragic story of the 10-year-old girl with breast cancer is enough to freak out any mother (and their daughters). But the truth is that her story is exceedingly rare.

The unusual type of breast cancer Hannah Powell-Auslam had is called secretory carcinoma, a rare subtype of infiltrating ductal carcinoma of the breast, but with a better prognosis. Few cases of this slow-growing cancer have ever been reported, and the five-year survival rate in young people is exceptionally good – approaching 100 percent after surgery. But does that make it any less concerning to us Moms? Maybe not.

So what can we do to protect our children? First, we need to teach them when they’re very young to learn to know their bodies. By teaching them about their bodies, we give them necessary permission to know and accept the skin they live in, but we also help them learn what’s normal. Invite your children to explore their body parts, including their breasts, so they can alert you, should they notice lumps and bumps that didn’t used to be there.

Hannah knew about her lump for months before she told her mother. She thought it was just part of growing up – a reasonable assumption. Many 10-year-olds do develop breast lumps as their breasts begin to form. I remember that, when I was 12, I felt a lump under my nipple and freaked out because I thought a roach had crawled under my skin. My physician father was able to examine me and assure me that they were just “breast buds,” but boy, was I mortified! At least I alerted my parents and got it checked. Give your children permission to explore, and make sure they feel comfortable coming to you if they find something different.

As for whether more and more young people will get breast cancer, I don’t know. A lot of research is ongoing, looking into environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens), which are chemicals with hormonal activity. These chemicals, which include pesticides, food dyes, plasticizers and many others, act like estrogen and appear to affect the genetic makeup of fetuses in utero. Not to get too technical on you, but these xenoestrogens act as endocrine disruptors and may increase the rates of diseases that are related to estrogen, such as fibroids, endometriosis and maybe breast cancer. So will more and more people get breast cancer? I can’t say. But we all need to keep these xenoestrogens in mind in order to protect our children and future generations. I could go on about how we need to protect Mama Earth, but then, that’s a whole other topic (and you don’t want me to get on my soapbox!).

I know Hannah was awfully young – and I don’t think your 6-year-olds need to do breast exams, but once your daughter hits puberty, teach her about her body. If you don’t feel comfortable, take her to her pediatrician or to a gynecologist, who has lots of experience with teens. Personally, I love having the opportunity to teach young woman about preventative health. No need to teach fear, but you can’t start too early to teach a girl to love her body. It’s all part of Owning Pink.

Read more about breast cancer here

Have a question about women’s health? Ask Betty’s OB/GYN on Call, Lissa Rankin , a gynecologist and author. She blogs at owningpink.com, and you can follow her on Twitter at @lissarankin.

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0 thoughts on “10-year-old Girl Battling Breast Cancer

  1. I can’t believe how young this girl is! It seems like our girls are hitting puberty younger and younger — a 10-year-old I know already started her period. What’s going on???

  2. Thank you Lissa for using this story as an opportunity to remind us how important it is to teach our children that there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about when it comes to our bodies! It’s never to young to impart this to our children — the younger the better. My thoughts go out to that little girl and her parents — how terrifying it must be for them.

  3. i had no idea how young you could get breast cancer. I’m glad to hear it’s so rare. and what a good reminder to try and help our children feel comfortable talking to us about their bodies!

  4. i knew that even men can acquire breast cancer but didn’t know that young girls could get it. so sad but sounds like the odds are in the child’s favor even more so after surgery. i’m glad to hear that.

  5. We destroyed the young body with hormones in food, BPA plastics (banned elsewhere, not in US) over-vaccination (48 before age 6, taking a toll on the immune system) horrible chemical laden foods, formula with melamine in it (rememeber that one) and on and on. I pray this child recovers. American children are chronically critically ill. Where’s the alarm from peds?

  6. A friend of mine lost her sister when she (the sister) was just 10 or 11 to ovarian cancer. her entire family was shocked by it, understandably.

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