Adolescence is a phase of rapid change brought on by specific hormonal changes, when a child matures sexually and physically. With the onset of oestrogen production in adolescent girls, mood swings, surging emotions and bewilderment are some of the usual accompanying signs. For most girls, the development of breasts is a major change since it affects their appearance and perception of femininity.
Breast buds start appearing around the ages of 8 to 11 years in young girls. This period may be associated with temporary symptoms of pain, soreness and mild swelling, which can be a discomfort to many girls. Rapid growth and development occurs in the breast tissues and papillae thereafter, which most often is asymmetrical. But this usually evens out by the age of 18, when the breasts become fully mature and attain their full size and final contour.
Dealing with issues around breast development may be distressing and difficult to cope, for parents as well as children. Here are some concerns:
- Asymmetrical breast development
Asymmetric breasts are common during adolescence, and parents need to reassure their teens that they will grow up fine. Also, in most cases, even fully matured breasts are never 100% identical and it is very common and normal to have mild asymmetry. However, if there is disfigurement, such as an indrawn nipple, it’s time to consult a doctor.
- Very early or delayed breast development
Early development of breasts before the age of 8 may indicate an underlying hormonal problem and would require medical attention. Similarly, delay in development beyond 13 years of age needs medical attention. Contact the family doctor and seek advice if that happens.
- Unusually small or large breasts
This is more of a cosmetic concern, but a simple discussion with your doctor can set a lot of anxieties at rest. If unusually large breasts are distressing, the doctor may suggest a reduction surgery once they are fully developed – usually by 18 years of age.
- Presence of breast lumps & tumour masses
Breast lumps or tumour masses in adolescents are usually benign. However, any suspicious breast mass should be immediately reported to the doctor who would then investigate further.
It is important for girls to be more aware of the changes in their body, and feel responsible towards their own good health, as they mature. Regularly self-examining the breasts, observing changes at different times of the month and reporting any suspicious changes to the doctor, can go a long way in maintaining good health.