In the United States today, an estimated 15 million adult men suffer from gynecomastia, or a chronic swelling of the male breast tissue. However, despite the widespread prevalence of this condition, the stigma and embarrassment that typically goes along with it can often prevent those afflicted from seeking help. As a result, there are many misconceptions about gynecomastia, and men often have many unanswered questions about what, exactly, it entails. In the more than twenty-five years that I have been a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in the breast and body, I have treated many patients suffering from gynecomastia. Here are answers to some of the questions that I have heard most often over the years.
Isn’t gynecomastia just a temporary side effect of puberty?
Although gynecomastia is most common in adolescent boys, it can actually affect males of any age, from infants to the elderly. In infants and teens the condition is often only temporary, and the breast buds go away on their own within six to twelve months. In adults, however, gynecomastia may be the result of a more serious underlying health issue, such as cirrhosis of the liver, an overactive thyroid, or other hormone-related concerns. Various drugs, as well as the use of certain prescription medications, may also cause gynecomastia. Correctly diagnosing the underlying causes is a vital first step to determining the appropriate treatment for the condition.
Won’t the breast tissue go away if I just lose weight?
Many believe that gynecomastia is nothing more than a simple side effect of excessive weight gain, but it is actually a completely separate medical condition. It is possible that excess fat in the torso region may create the appearance of enlarged breast tissue, a condition known as pseudogynecomastia. However this can often be treated with diet and exercise or with liposuction. True gynecomastia involves the accumulation of abnormal glandular tissue in the breast area which may result from any of several different underlying causes.
Does having gynecomastia mean that I am at increased risk of developing breast cancer?
No, the two conditions may seem superficially similar, but they are not related in any way. While it is possible for men to develop breast cancer, it is extremely rare and we can perform simple tests that can rule out that possibility in order to put your mind at ease.
How can gynecomastia be treated?
Because there are so many potential causes of gynecomastia, and because individual patients can vary significantly, there are a number of different treatment options that can be explored. Gynecomastia in babies and teens will normally go away on its own, so I may recommend simply observation in order to determine whether treatment is warranted. If we determine that a patient’s gynecomastia is caused by medicine or an underlying disease, stopping the medicine or treating the disease will often alleviate the concern, and if it is caused by a lack of testosterone and increase in estrogen, hormonal treatment may be prescribed. Male breast reduction surgery to remove the excess tissue, sometimes combined with liposuction to contour the entire upper torso, is only considered after other treatments have proven ineffective.
Gynecomastia can be an embarrassing condition, but getting past the false information to understand what is really going on is a great first step to finding the help that you may need. If you are interested in learning more about male breast reduction surgery or about any of the body contouring cosmetic plastic surgery procedures that I perform, contact me, Dr. James Namnoum to schedule a consultation today or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google+ for more plastic surgery news.