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Children's Health

Soreness of Boobs

12/12/2011

Question:

My 10 yr old niece has been complaining about her boobs hurting, she has started her cycle, and they hurt so much she can`t stand for them to be touch, what shall i do??

Answer:

This is a great question I am sure many girls and their mothers have worried about and wondered over. The good news is that breast pain in women under 35 years of age, and especially among teens, is very rarely due to a serious health problem such as breast cancer.

Breast development in girls can begin as early as 8 years of age or as late as 13 years of age, with the appearance of small lumps of tissue called breast buds. Many boys also develop breast buds and may experience breast tenderness. Over the next 4-5 years, the breast tissue, aereolae and nipples of girls will undergo significant changes in size and shape, preparing the breasts to serve their function of milk production for babies.

Many young women entering puberty experience breast tenderness as their bodies undergo the changes driven by a large surge in hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone. Both of these hormones can cause water retention as well as tissue growth that can stretch nerves housed in the breast tissue. The stretching and compression of nerves leads to the pain. This is absolutely normal. Most women experience significant breast pain relief with the onset of their menses as hormone levels fall rapidly and the uterine lining is shed.

Things that can help to relieve breast pain due to hormonal changes include wearing a good, supportive bra, taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and limiting caffeine intake from coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas, and chocolate. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen should be taken at only the recommended doses. Taking large or frequent amounts of these medications to completely eliminate any pain can result in rebound headaches or damage to the liver and kidneys. She should avoid massaging her breasts and applying heat as this will worsen the swelling and nerve stretching.

If the pain is constant or worsens, or if there is any nipple discharge, your niece should see her doctor. If she remains worried about the pain, she should also see her doctor for an examination. Though extremely rare, thankfully, breast cancer can occur in teens. Worry can worsen the discomfort, so embarrassing or not, seeking guidance from the doctor is a good idea if worry and discomfort are getting in the way of normal activities.

I hope this information proves helpful and Happy Holidays!

Fisher, M.M. (Ed.) (2011). Textbook of adolescent health care. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Aten, C.B., & Gotlieb, E.M. (2006). Caring for adolescent patients (2nd ed.) Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University