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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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September 2002

Q. I developed gynecomastia during the summer of 1997, when I was 12 years old while I was starting to go through puberty. At first, I didn't pay much attention to my enlarging breasts, although I could feel the lump under the nipple. At that time, the lumps were so big that the areola was stretched around the entire lump. Now I'm 17 years old, and the lumps seem to have gone down a little over the years, but they still remain. I would like to know what symptoms I should look for, to know if my gynecomastia is finally going away.

I've done some research, and most sources say that it usually goes away within 3 years for teenage boys, but it's been 5 years already for me, and only recently I've noticed that the lumps underneath the nipples feel different. They seem to breaking up on the sides into smaller pellets, but I'm not sure that this means the problem is about to go away.

I've read that gynecomastia can either be present in lumps or glandular fingers. Might the new deformities in the lumps be a sign that this problem is about to go away?

A. Gynecomastia refers to the development of breast tissue in males. This is actually a common occurrence during puberty due to changes in the hormones, and is uncommon to be severe as you describe. The tissue develops directly under the nipple, is rarely more than 1-2 inches in diameter, and occurs on one or both sides. It usually resolves in a few months, but not always. It can usually be diagnosed by a doctor's exam, but tests of hormone production and imaging studies such as an ultrasound test may be needed. Certain medications can cause breast tissue growth as well, so this would be part of the evaluation. See your doctor to confirm the diagnosis; cases that do not resolve on their own may need surgical treatment.



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