Gynecomastia, also commonly known as man boobs, is a condition that causes tissue development in the chest of some men, giving the appearance of breasts. This is a fairly common condition that affect males of all ages, usually occurring during infancy and puberty, but may go away as adulthood is reached. For others, the symptoms of gynecomastia can remain into adulthood, or develop during adulthood, in which case surgery is the only solution to reduce or remove excess breast tissue.
It is important to distinguish between breast development due to gynecomastia, which is the growth of breast tissue that occur because of a hormonal imbalance, and the build-up of fat in the breast area experienced in overweight men. Gynecomastia typically feels firm and is usually symmetrical in location, although can be uneven too in some cases.
What are the signs and symptoms of gynecomastia?
The symptoms of gynecomastia can vary from small build of tissue around the nipple and chest to more prominent development of breast. The development of breast tissue can occur on one or both breasts.
There are many causes and reasons to why gynecomastia occurs in men, including:
Hormone imbalance – An imbalance between the sexual hormones testosterone and oestrogen can cause gynecomastia to occur. All men produce some amount of oestrogen, but this is typically at a much lower level than testosterone. This balance usually prevents breasts from growing, but If this balance changes it can cause breast to develop. The exact cause of this type of hormonal imbalance in unclear.
Obesity – Although not all chest enlargements necessarily indicate gynecomastia, the build-up of excess fat around the chest may also give the appearance of man boobs. Having said that, obesity can cause the body to produce excess oestrogen and result in an imbalance in the sexual hormones.
Puberty – During puberty hormone levels can fluctuate in boys. If the levels of testosterone drop or oestrogen increases breast may develop. In most cases this symptom will clear up as hormone levels get back to normal and balance out.
Age – As men get older the production of testosterone goes down and they begin to carry more body far, which can cause oestrogen to develop in the body.
Other, less common causes of gynecomastia include:
- Side effects of some medication
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Kidney failure
- Liver disease
- Problems with the testicle – infection or lumps
What is involved in male chest reduction surgery?
Male chest reduction surgery can be performed under local or general anaesthetic, depending on the treatment method, and can take one to two hours.
Liposuction is an effective way to remove fat from areas of the body that typically retain fat despite dieting and exercise. There are a variety of liposuction methods a surgeon could utilise to carry out this procedure, including VASER Lipo, MicroLipo and Surgical Liposuction. Your surgeon will discuss these options with you and recommend the most suitable method.
Typically, the surgery will comprise of:
- Surgeon making a small incision below the nipple
- Liposuction is used to remove excess tissue
- Remain in hospital for a day or two after the procedure to start recovery.
Gynecomastia treatment on the NHS
Usually, chest reduction surgery is not available on the NHS unless there is a clear medical need to have the procedure. Typically, the NHS won’t cover the cost of any elective cosmetic treatments, including male breast reduction surgery, unless there is a reason to believe the condition is causing distress or pain.
Can gynecomastia be prevented?
As mentioned before, gynecomastia is a condition caused by a hormonal imbalance. Symptoms that occur as a result of this or aging cannot be prevent. However, If the cause is medicinal or due to hormonal imbalances that result from personal life style, precautions may be taken to reduce the chances of gynecomastia developing. Speak to your doctor for more details.
It may not be very clear whether the symptoms you’re noticing are related gynecomastia or not. So, before any treatment should be considered it is important to get a definitive diagnosis.
To do this, you’ll need to speak to a doctor who will ask you a series of question about your medical history and perform a physical examination. The examination may include an evaluation of your breast tissue, abdomen and genitals.
A series of additional test may also be carried out, including:
- Blood test
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Testicular ultrasound
Why some men choose to have chest reduction surgery?
For many men having enlarged breast tissue can be a big cause for concern, especially if they’re very prominent. This can affect confidence and self-esteem, ultimately resulting in a change in behaviour.
Here are some benefits of male chest reduction surgery:
- Regain self-confidence
- Be more confident in your appearance
- Regain a flat masculine chest
- Clothes fit better
- Wear clothes without feeling self-conscious about your physique
- Improve the proportions of your body
Does gynecomastia increase chance of breast cancer in men?
Gynecomastia can be distressing, embarrassing and isolating for people affected by it and can lead to feelings of anxiety. It can often be seen as an unusual condition for men which can make comprehending some of its health implications quite difficult.
Gynecomastia is a benign condition, meaning it’s not cancerous, and doesn’t increase the chance of developing breast cancer in men. Having said that it is still important for men to check for signs of breast cancer and have a check up with their doctor if there are any concerns.
Gynecomastia that occurs because of puberty will usually clear up on its own over time. Those suffering from obesity may see improvements if they lose weight as this will help to balance the sexual hormones.
For most other causes of gynecomastia male chest reduction surgery is the only effective way to remove or reduce breast tissue in men.
Male chest reduction surgery uses similar surgical techniques as liposuction to remove excess fat and tissue from the chest area. The operation is quick and simple to do, and the outcome of the procedure is generally received positively by patients.
If medication is the cause of breast development, speak to your doctor to see if alternative treatment may be available.
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