Gynecomastia is the abnormal development of tissue and/or glands in the male breast. The condition is fairly common in adolescence and in the elderly, but over development of breast tissue can occur in men of any age due to medications, hormone imbalances, obesity and other factors. Enlargement usually occurs on both sides of the chest. If it is one-sided, firm and hard, see your doctor immediately to rule out male breast cancer. Male breast cancer is rare; less than 1% of all breast carcinomas occur in men. The mean age at diagnosis is between 60 and 70 years, though men of all ages can be affected with the disease. Although gynecomastia is much more common than breast cancer in men, both can be felt as a growth under the nipple, which is why it’s important to have any such lumps checked by your doctor.
For common gyecomastia a root cause is difficult to determine and varies from individual to individual. Gynecomastia has generally been attributed to an imbalance of sex hormones or an imbalance of estrogenic and androgenic effects on the breast. Diseases of the liver, which is an important organ in male and female hormone metabolism, can change a man’s hormone balance and lead to gynecomastia. Obesity can also cause higher levels of estrogens in men. Overuse of steroids is another known cause.
Gynecomastia can be psychologically challenging. While the appearance of overdeveloped breast tissue in men is not physically harmful, the psychological effects can be difficult to overcome. Many men have trouble discussing concerns about their bodily appearance and gynecomastia presents a particularly difficult subject to talk about openly. It is important for anyone dealing with a psychologically distressing issue to open up to a doctor. Talking with a professional can be a powerful antidote for negative feelings and is the beginning point for the healing process. For many men struggling with gynecomastia the best solution is medical treatment.
Treatments for gynecomastia include surgery, liposuction and non-surgical ultrasound massage or a combination of these procedures. Liposuction and ultrasound massage can address fatty tissue build up in the breast and surgery is used to reconstruct the contour of the chest.
The first step for treatment is a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon. This evaluation will determine if you are a good candidate for male breast reduction. Before treatment certain diagnostic testing will be done to help determine the underlying cause of the condition. In general, the best candidates for surgery are healthy men of relatively normal weight whose breast development has stabilized.
For physically active men whose attempts to lose the fat around the breast area with an exercise or weight loss program have not succeeded, surgical treatment may be the best option.
Contact Leif Rogers, M.D., FACS Plastic surgery for your consultation today.