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General Medical Questions
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Question : What would cause a male in his mid-50s to feel soreness in both breasts? There is no apparent hardness or lumps.
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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November 09, 2012
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A:

Soreness in the breasts or chest can be caused by any number of different conditions. Leading causes would be pain from the chest muscles or from inflammation of the ribs or chest wall. However, pain that happens only with exercise or that is linked to shortness of breath or a sense of heaviness might be more worrisome. It could point to a heart or lung condition.

When men develop swollen breasts, the condition is known as gynecomastia (Greek for “female breasts”). Often the breasts are tender or sore. There may not be a distinct lump. But firm or rubbery tissue can be felt under the nipple. Gynecomastia can develop in one or both breasts at the same time.

Gynecomastia is common in adolescent boys, and is usually benign. In adult men, new gynecomastia usually warrants a medical evaluation. In about half the cases, no specific cause can be found.

Still, gynecomastia can result from a number of medical problems. They include:

  • Side effects from certain drugs, including hormone treatment for breast cancer, spironolactone (Aldactone), digoxin and cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Hormonal conditions including hypogonadism (low testosterone levels) or an overactive thyroid gland
  • Tumors of the testicles or adrenal glands
  • Malnutrition

Unexplained breast pain -- in either men or women -- usually warrants a visit to your doctor.

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