Dealing With Painful Breasts as a Teenager

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As young women go through puberty, various changes happen throughout their body.  They begin to grow hair in places they never had before, experience feelings that unknown to them, and develop breasts.

Many girls and teenagers have questions they want to ask as their breasts begin to develop but are often to shy or embarrassed to speak up.  Going through these changes can be quite daunting if you’re not prepared, but please note, you are not alone.  The following are a few questions and answers that may help young women as they go through this period of development. We asked Dr Serge A. Kozak (FRACGP MBBS BMedSc DCH) at DearJane Medical a number of common questions most teen girls will have when growing up.

Should I experience pain as my breasts grow?

It’s quite normal for young women to experience some pain as they develop.  Breasts begin to develop in puberty when the estrogen and progesterone hormones are released.  As the breast begins to grow, the surrounding skin begins to stretch, and this causes some young women pain.  Fluid levels in the breast tissue also change when hormones are released.  This can make breasts more sensitive and sometimes even painful.

What are these red marks on my breasts?

As the skin stretches to accommodate for the growth in breast tissue it can sometimes leave red stretch marks if it doesn’t stretch fast enough.  Over time these will fade to white.  Many young women feel embarrassed about them, but there is no need, as they are very common and hardly noticeable.

Is it normal for breasts to be different sizes?

Yes.  Quite often a young woman’s breasts will develop at different rates.  Sometimes, even when they are fully developed, they may still be different sizes.   Some women even have a whole cup size difference between breasts.  Again, this is quite normal and nothing at all to worry about.

Does a breast lump always indicate cancer?

No.  Breasts have to start from somewhere and at the beginning they appear as a lump underneath the nipple.  It’s very rare for any of these teenage lumps to be cancerous, however if you do have any concerns, by all means seek medical advice.  All women, young and old, should self-examine their breasts regularly, as soon as they’re fully developed.

Is it possible for young men to develop breast tissue?

Yes.  As young men go through puberty it’s not uncommon for them to develop breast tissue as they develop.  It’s due to changes in the hormones and in most cases is only temporary.  The medical name for it is gynecomastia.

The starting signals

When a young woman’s breasts start to develop she may see some/all of the following:

  • tenderness around the nipple area
  • firm lumps underneath the nipple
  • an itchiness around the chest and nipple area

The 5 stages of breast development

These stages begin at birth and progress weight through puberty:

  1. The nipple begins to rise.
  2. Underneath each nipple, breast buds form.  The areola (the darker skin around the nipple) may also get bigger at this stage.
  3. Breast tissue begins to develop and the breasts get larger.
  4. Both the nipple and areola raise up forming a second mound above the breast tissue.
  5. The final stage of development sees the breast becoming rounded with just the nipple raised.

Caring for your breasts

As with any part of the body, you need to look after your breasts and the best way to do this is through the use of an effective bra.  Make sure you choose a bra because it fits well and has plenty of support.  It’s good to spend some time without wearing a bra too as allows the skin to breathe.

Aches and pains

It’s not uncommon to experience pain as your breasts develop, and normally these pains will pass.  If, however they don’t, sometimes Ibuprofen or pain-relieving gels can help.  Wearing a more supportive top or sports bra can also minimize pain when exercising.  If the pain you’re experiencing is too much, then seek advice from your doctor.  They may be able to prescribe medication that better controls the hormone changes you’re going through.