To follow up with our prior post on breast growth and in the interest of breast education, we’d like to introduce a specific scale of physical development, known as the Tanner Scale. It is used to mark the progression of primary and secondary sex characteristics.
In terms of the breast, girls go through multiple stages numbered one through five. While each stage occurs within a general range of ages, they cannot be used to determine age specifically.
Tanner Stage I is at birth – an areola with no glandular tissue. This is called prepubertal. In Tanner II, breast buds form, with a widening of the areolas and a small amount of glandular tissue. This stage is called “thelarche.” Tanner III is marked by elevation of the breasts as they become more broad than the area of the areola. In the fourth Tanner stage, papilla form as well as more general growth of the breast size. Papilla is a medical term for “nipples” – these refer to the development of an additional rise from the general contour of the breast. The final stage, Tanner V, is the full adult size of the breast in which the contour of the breast and the areola are no longer differentiated but the papilla remains protruding.
During the stages of breast development, it uncommon to need or do breast imaging. Imaging comes into play only when there is an unusual breast complaint such as a early breast development (prior to age 7 1/2), palpable nodule, or asymmetric development of breast tissues. One of these findings in a young female warrants a discussion with a pediatrician or health care provider to determine any additional evaluation is necessary, typically not. In pediatric patients when breast imaging evaluation is necessary, breast ultrasound is used. Mammography is simply not used in pediatric patients.