Whenever the topic of breast surgery comes up, no matter their background, almost every person pictures the same thing: a female patient. However, there are a number of circumstances in which a man must undergo breast surgery for some reason. Whether it’s breast cancer (which does occur in men contrary to popular belief) or the topic of this week’s blog, men do undergo breast surgery. This week, we’ll explore one of the lesser known reasons for this. Gynecomastia, or the enlargement of glandular breast tissue in men, affects around half of all men at some point in their lives. Typically, it begins during puberty but will flatten out over time. However, for a small portion of the male population, gynecomastia does not go away on its own. This week’s blog is going to uncover how gynecomastia forms and what it looks like, how doctors diagnose the condition, and how severe cases are treated.

What is Gynecomastia

Caused by the natural hormone changes which occur during puberty in men. As estrogen levels climb, testosterone may be overshadowed which causes the acute breast growth. It manifests as a small, possibly tender, lump beneath the nipple. Unlike the typical appearance of man boobs in a person who may be overweight which appears saggy and stretched, the lumps caused by gynecomastia appear much more similar to the female breast, round and high set. While for most men the condition goes away on its own over time, it may develop lasting effects in some. This is especially true of overweight men. Adult males may also develop the condition, typically those aged 50 and above who are considered overweight. Gynecomastia can also be caused by certain medications including, but not limited to, anti-anxiety medication, prostate cancer medication, anabolic steroids, or ulcer medications. While generally the problem is only aesthetic and has no other side effects physically, it can be a source of shame for many men who are afraid of displaying “man boobs.”

How to Diagnose

Gynecomastia appears similar to small breasts in men. Before diagnosing an individual with the condition, doctors will run tests to acquire conclusive evidence that it is the cause of breast emergence in men because there are other causes for breasts in men. One is fatty breast tissue which is simply regular fat accumulating in the chest. This differs from gynecomastia because instead of enlarged glandular tissue, the normal enlargement of fatty tissue takes place. Enlargement of one breast could also be indicative of breast cancer or a breast abscess (infection of the breast tissue), so doctors need to rule those out before commencing treatment. Doctors may call for a blood test, biopsy, or mammogram to assess the cause of enlarged breasts in men.

man boobs

Treatment For Man Boobs

A doctor must first recognize the cause of gynecomastia to treat it. Medications can be swapped out and underlying health issues can be treated. If the condition doesn’t improve, a doctor may prescribe medication to reduce the production of estrogen. If that doesn’t work either, surgery may be necessary to reshape the breasts. A surgeon may have to reposition the nipple to make the chest appear natural and remove excess, stretched skin. It is important to note that while surgery is intended for lasting effects, gaining a significant amount of weight, using anabolic steroids or other drugs which affect testosterone levels, or otherwise living an unhealthy lifestyle can cause the condition to resurface. For this reason, it is important to take care of your body post-surgery by eating healthy and not engaging in drug use or other harmful substances.