21 May 2012
One of the unexpected changes that can happen to boys during puberty is that their breasts can start to grow. This is a common and normal part of development of males, but it is rarely talked about, and boys can worry about this a lot. They can be afraid that they could have cancer, that they are not normal boys, that the swellings will get a lot larger and everyone will see them and that this will last forever.
About 65% of normal healthy 14 year old males have some breast tissue. It is caused by the hormones that lead to the other changes of puberty.
During puberty boys often demand privacy so parents may not see the changes, and their son may be quite unwilling to let them know. Boys probably will not be able to talk with their friends about it either.
What does it look like?
- It normally looks like a slight build up under the nipples. One breast may develop on its own, or both may grow a little. Sometimes it can be tender or itchy.
- It starts like breast development does for girls, but it stops when it is still a small lump. It does not keep growing.
- Even though it may be very obvious to the boy, most other people will not notice it.
- It should be hardly noticeable under clothes.
- It is always temporary, and the boy's breasts will flatten again.
- The swelling usually goes down within a year or two, and it is virtually always gone before the age of 20 years.
Should he see a doctor?
- It would be best for anyone who is worried about his health to talk to someone.
- A doctor can examine your son and make sure that there is no other reason for the growth of the breast tissue. It is rare that any tests will be needed.
- Your doctor will be able to answer any other questions you may have.
For more information have a look at the topic 'Male breasts (gynaecomastia)'.
There are topics for boys on the Kid's Health part of this website and also the Teen Health section.