Suffering from gynecomastia means you have enlarged breast tissue, or otherwise unkindly known as "man boobs". The word “gynecomastia” has two roots – gyneco, meaning female and mastia, meaning breasts. Male breasts appear to resemble female breasts in this condition, which can be hard for some men to deal with because of many negative factors.
You may have this condition if you're self-consciously:
- Knowing that your chest is larger, but it's not from muscle increase.
- Hiding your chest under extra large sweatshirts.
- Making choices other than going to the beach or pool during summer months.
- Feeling jealous towards other men whose physique – especially chest – looks impressive.
- Feeling that you are ‘lesser’ than other men.
- Lack of confidence socially.
- Loss of desire to wear t-shirts in the summer, spring or even at home.
Gynecomastia can have devastating psychological impacts on any man. For this reason, it’s best to consider the options as soon as possible.
4 Commonly Believed Myths About Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia gave me cancer.
When breast tissue enlarges in gynecomastia, it’s the accumulation of fat tissue, not a tumor tissue. The changes have occurred because of hormonal changes.
Another clue that the condition isn't cancerous is that it occurs in both breasts simultaneously, not one by itself. Cancer almost always starts out in one specific location and is not bilateral.
This isn’t to say that cancer can never occur with gynecomastia. It's rare for cancer to appear in men with gynecomastia, but it does happen in about one percent of all cases.
Gynecomastia isn't common.
Medical studies estimate the occurrence of gynecomastia at anywhere from 32-65 percent of all men. If you look at autopsy reports, you’ll see an incidence report of about 40 percent.
Gynecomastia can occur during a young boy’s infant years, during the teens, or when a male becomes an adult. From this, you can see that gynecomastia can occur at any point in life.
If you have gynecomastia at a young age, it’s a worse predicament than getting it when older.
If you have gynecomastia during infancy, the placenta converted two DHEA hormones to estrogen versions of them, while you were in the womb. Whenever there’s extra estrogen in the bloodstream, the estrogen stimulates the estrogen receptors in the breast – male or female – and the breast grows. Baby boys only have gynecomastia for a few weeks of their lives.
If you have the condition during your early teens, you’re like a lot of other boys of that age group; it’s very common. Up to 69 percent of boys have gynecomastia, and the good news is that it will usually resolve itself by age 17. In this case, gynecomastia may appear as early as age 10.
When an adult male develops gynecomastia, it may be remedied with surgery. It’s the age-related condition of lower testosterone levels that causes gynecomastia in later life.
Gynecomastia will never go away on its own.
Your gynecomastia could be a direct result of medications. If this is true for you, then the condition will go away on its own once the medication you are taking is changed to another similar medication that doesn't cause the breast enlargement.
Medications That Cause Male Breast Enlargement
- Tricyclic antidepressants
However, the longer you have gynecomastia, the greater the chances that it will not completely regress. And the older you are when you get the condition, the more likely it will not resolve on its own.
Your gynecomastia can also be removed with modern-day surgical procedures.
Treatment for Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia surgery is not the type of surgery that has to be repeated. It’s typically successful without complications.
Gynecomastia surgical procedures are becoming more popular. In fact, in the last seven years, there has been an increase in the number of men consenting to the procedure by 30 percent.
What happens in gynecomastia is that the tissue changes start out as a rubbery mass or a firm mass and then spread out from the nipple area. During the plastic surgery procedure, the excess fatty tissue is removed, usually with liposuction surgical tools. (Learn more about liposuction with Your Guide to Liposuction Recovery.)
If there are glands that are involved which have caused the nipples to enlarge, the procedure will be more extensive. (Learn more with A Comprehensive Guide to Nipple Reduction Surgery.)
The excess fat comes from a change in hormones as you age. Testosterone levels decrease, and/or estrogen mimickers from environmental chemicals and/or pollution increase the amount of estrogen in the body. Both these together spell disaster for men’s breasts.
The changes of gynecomastia may also be from liver, kidney or thyroid problems, or even vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Your doctor will be able to determine the cause of your enlarged breasts.
There are different grades of gynecomastia. "Grade I" means the condition is just starting while "Grade IV" is where the man’s breasts resemble female breasts. The more advanced the condition, the more involved the procedure is.
Skin elasticity greatly affects your recovery and your healing speed. The incision length depends on how much excess breast tissue needs to be removed. Most men are satisfied with their results, even when much excess tissue has been removed.
Your plastic surgeon will determine the type of incision that will work best for you. Discuss the matter with him to find out whether or not an incision will be placed underneath the nipple or at the edge of the nipple. You can also find out whether or not ultrasound will be used along with liposuction for the procedure and what type of pain relief methods you will be offered. (Read Liposuction Vs. Smart Liposuction: What's the Difference?)
Recovery Tips for Gynecomastia Surgery
Below are some recommendations to accelerate your healing after you undergo gynecomastia surgery.
- Follow the instructions your board-certified plastic surgeon gives you before the surgery. These instructions will include discontinuing certain types of medications and/or vitamins and minerals that may cause blood clotting issues during the surgery. Your doctor wants to increase the chances of success for your surgery.
- On the day of the surgery, have a family member or friend take you to the doctor’s office/hospital. Don’t plan on driving home on your own after the surgery.
- Plan on taking a week off from work after the surgery.
- Expect swelling after the surgery in the breast area. This will decrease over the next three months.
- Every surgical procedure has side effects. The side effects of gynecomastia include: reduced nipple sensitivity, reactions to medications/anesthesia, infection, blood loss, blood clots, damage to tissues during the surgery, and results from the surgery are less than what is expected. If you get any of these side effects, then call your doctor’s office.
- After the surgery, do not lift your arms up – either one or both at the same time – especially over your head.
- Go to the doctor’s office 5-7 days after your surgery has been done to remove your sutures.
- Avoid going back to work for about a week after the procedure.
- Avoid any types of non-weight bearing exercises for up to three weeks after the surgery and up to six weeks for bodybuilding.
- If your pain does not lessen over time after the surgery, call your doctor.
The Bottom Line
Successful gynecomastia surgery is very possible. Thousands of men undergo this procedure every year. But make sure to choose a board-certified licensed doctor who is very experienced with this procedure and can review a complete book of before and after photos with you. Always speak candidly about the procedure and be realistic about your desired end results.
Understand the risks of the procedure and any complications that could result. And do everything you can to foster a quick recovery.