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Asked and Answered: All About Premature Breast Development

December 3, 2020

Breast development can mark the metamorphosis of a little girl into a grown woman, graduation that ought to be celebrated. Only, when it happens too soon, it can be hard to welcome the change – for child and parent.

Premature breast development, or premature thelarche, is the development of breasts at an early age, usually before eight years of age. In general, the condition is deemed harmless, and what starts out as a growth of the chest usually stagnates early on. Most girls do not experience associated signs of puberty such as acne, pubic hair, menstruation or a growth spurt. However, chest changes can set off alarm bells in both kids and parents, and raise numerous questions; some, you’ll find the answers to in this guide. Here is premature thelarche, exposed.

Q1. What causes premature thelarche?

The causes of premature thelarche are still being examined. While studies have revealed that girls with early breast development have normal levels of oestrogen, it is thought that ovarian cysts might play a role in secreting extra hormones. Another theory suggests that girls with premature thelarche are simply more sensitive to oestrogen, and that breast enlargement is one of its manifestations.

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Q2. Who gets premature thelarche?

The reasons for premature thelarche haven’t yet been established. While there are no predefined risk factors, hormone sensitivity is thought to play a role. The condition isn’t considered overly problematic in young girls, although it is regarded as a concern in boys.  

Q3. How does premature thelarche manifest?

Usually, premature thelarche prompts the enlargement of one or both breasts but doesn’t cause any setbacks in overall growth or development. The condition doesn’t trigger any other symptoms of puberty.

Q4. How is premature thelarche diagnosed?

The majority of girls who develop premature thelarche are under eight years of age. In girls aged eight and above, breast development is usually the first sign of puberty.

Since girls with premature thelarche do not display any other signs of puberty, seeking a definitive diagnosis can be a challenge. In infants below three, careful observation is often the most useful way to diagnose the condition. At such a young age, precocious puberty is unlikely, and a growing child that exhibits breast growth can be assumed to have premature thelarche.

Your paediatrician may not advise any tests, instead, recommending a wait-and-watch approach. Alternatively, depending on the extent of the condition, your child may be advised blood tests, specifically an LH test and an estradiol test.  

An X-ray of the left hand (to determine bone age) is sometimes also recommended if precocious puberty is suspected, but seldom reaps diagnostic evidence of premature thelarche.

Q5. What is the treatment for premature thelarche?

Early breast development does not usually need to be treated, although careful observation is advised.

Q6. Are there any complications associated with premature thelarche?

Early breast development does not give rise to complications. Precocious puberty is usually ruled out and careful monitoring is recommended.

Q7. Can premature thelarche be prevented?

No, it can’t. However, the condition does not pose any health risks and isn’t a cause for worry. As a parent, it is important for you to communicate with your child, assure them that this is normal and provide psychological support.

If you’re worried about your child facing psychological setbacks, dealing with body image issues or struggling to accept changes, consider having your little one meet a counsellor on Cloudnine. With early therapy, you can prepare your child both physically and emotionally – a decision you’ll thank yourself for in the long run.

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