What is gynecomastia?


Breast concerns in boys: Overview

Hormones sometimes cause breast growth in male children. This is called gynecomastia. Using some medicines also can cause breast growth. It can also be caused by a medical condition.

In babies, this usually goes away in a few weeks to a year after birth. In preteen and teenage boys, this often goes away within 6 months but may last up to 2 years. Many boys get this breast growth from rapid hormone changes during puberty.

Talk with your doctor if your teen is concerned about breast size or shape or is worried by these changes.

What are the symptoms of gynecomastia?

In addition to having enlarged breasts, men or boys with gynecomastia may notice their breasts feel rubbery or firm. Often men don't have any symptoms. Boys may notice a lump or mass behind the nipple. Boys (and some men) may have breast tenderness and pain. Some breast enlargement is common in adolescent boys during puberty. But it is usually temporary and goes away without treatment.

How is gynecomastia treated?

Gynecomastia in newborn babies often goes away in a few weeks without treatment. But it can last for up to a year.

If gynecomastia occurs during puberty, it often goes away within a year without treatment. But it may last for up to 2 years. It can be uncomfortable. But if it causes pain or worry, medicine or surgery can help.

When the condition is caused by medicines, treatment involves changing or stopping the medicine. If it's caused by another medical problem, treating the other condition will help balance hormones and may reduce the gynecomastia.

Men who have prostate cancer and get hormone therapy may take medicines or have radiation for gynecomastia.

For teens and men with severe gynecomastia, early treatment with medicines can make a difference. Breast tissue can change in less than a year from glandular tissue to fibrotic tissue. Once that happens, surgery may be the only way to reduce the extra breast tissue.

How is gynecomastia diagnosed?

Gynecomastia can usually be diagnosed from a physical exam and medical history. Tests that may be done to rule out breast cancer include ultrasound, mammogram, and a breast biopsy. Other lab tests, such as a blood test, may be done to check hormone levels.

How can you care for breast concerns in boys?

  • If your child's breasts are tender, he can put a cold washcloth or ice pack on them for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and the skin.
  • Tell your doctor about all medicines your child takes. Some medicines can cause breast growth in boys.
  • Advise your son to wear loose-fitting shirts. This will make the breast growth easier to hide. Also, a loose shirt will not rub the breasts as much as a tight shirt.

What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is the overdevelopment of the male breast. A breast has both glandular tissue and fatty tissue. With gynecomastia, the glands in the breast become enlarged. The enlarged glands may feel like a rubbery disk beneath the nipple area. Both breasts are often affected.

What causes gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia may be caused by an imbalance of hormones in your body. It can happen from normal hormone changes during infancy, puberty, or as men age. Or it may be caused by a medical condition or taking certain medicines.

Newborns may have enlarged breasts when they are first born because they received hormones from their mother.

Preteen and teen boys may develop gynecomastia from rapid changes in their hormone levels during puberty.

Men can develop gynecomastia from age-related hormone changes if their testosterone level drops too low. Or it can be caused by a medical condition, like chronic liver disease. There are also medicines that can cause this, such as hormone therapy for prostate cancer and medicines used to treat high blood pressure or heart problems.

Taking steroids for bodybuilding can also cause gynecomastia. But sometimes it occurs for no known reason.

Breast concerns in boys: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has more pain or growth in a breast.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.