James Price’s breasts had been painful and swollen. It looked as if gum balls were implanted underneath each nipple. The slightest touch triggered throbs.
For Price, a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer who once flew attack helicopters in Vietnam, these changes were more than just physically uncomfortable.
“Men aren’t supposed to have breasts,” he says today in a quiet Texas drawl. “It was like my body was feminizing.”
A lean and wiry man, the breast development stood in stark contrast to the rest of his body. But it was not Price’s only symptom.
His beard growth had slowed, he’d lost hair from his arms, chest, and legs, and he’d stopped waking up with morning erections.
“My sexual desire disappeared,” he says. “My penis—I won’t say it atrophied, but it was so flaccid that it looked very small in comparison with the way it used to be. Even my emotions changed.”
The first three doctors Price consulted diagnosed him with gynecomastia, or the abnormal enlargement of the mammary glands in men.
Tests further revealed that estrogen levels in his bloodstream were eight times higher than the normal limits for men, higher even than the levels typically seen in healthy women. Price’s estrogen was so high, in fact, that the doctors were at a loss to explain it. One physician became so frustrated he eventually accused Price of secretly taking estrogen.
“He thought I was a mental case,” says Price, still angry as he recalls the experience.
Dispirited and in pain, he decided to try one more doctor, this time a fellow military man.