Gynecomastia, commonly referred to as “man-boobs” or “bitch-tits”, refers to male breast enlargement, and occurs in about half of boys as they go through puberty. Although distressing to many teen boys who think that they are developing breasts, they should be reassured that gynecomastia is normal, common, and usually doesn’t progress to the point that it is easily noticeable by their peers. And most importantly, in most cases, gynecomastia goes away without any treatment.
Most boys with gynecomastia will notice a small, firm, tender mass under one or both nipples. They may continue to grow a little at first, but they will then eventually flatten out again, often within a few months or years. The tenderness is also usually temporary.
Teens who are very overweight may have pseudogynecomastia, in which they have enlarged breasts because of increased fat and not true breast tissue. Unlike teens with true gynecomastia, pseudogynecomastia will not usually go away on its own unless the child loses weight.
What You Need To Know
- Gynecomastia usually goes away within two to three years in 90 percent of teens.
- An imbalance between estrogen and androgens, hormones that rise during puberty, is thought to cause gynecomastia.
- Gynecomastia is also sometimes associated with drug use, including marijuana and anabolic steroids.
- Gynecomastia is much less common before puberty, and these prepubertal boys should have a full endocrinological evaluation.
- Gynecomastia is also seen in children with Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, cirrhosis, thyroid disorders, testicular feminization, and hormone secreting tumors, and it can be a side effect of certain medications, such as cimetidine, human growth hormone, and spironolactone.
- Breast cancer is very rare in teen boys, so that would be an unlikely cause of breast swelling in teenagers. Still, boys should see their Pediatrician for an evaluation if they notice a lump in their breasts, both for an evaluation and for reassurance that they are okay.
What You Can Do
If you are obese and have pseudogynecomastia, losing weight thru proper exercise and diet could solve the problem.
Although not usually necessary, if a teen boy has very large breasts or his gynecomastia isn’t going away, then surgical treatment can be an option. Most experts recommend waiting for at least two years before considering mastectomy for gynecomastia though.
Remember that the majority of teens don’t require any treatment for their gynecomastia though.