Maybe it’s a holdover from the time of the caveman, but our eye perceives a flat chest as a masculine looking chest. Unfortunately, about 1 in 4 men over the age of 50 have some degree of enlarged breasts due to an over development of breast tissue and/or fat. It can be embarrassing to the point that many men stop participating in certain activities that involve exposed chests.
The great news is enlarged male breasts, or gynecomastia, is quite simple to treat. Dr. Lee Thornton of Meridian, MS discusses the various components of gynecomastia and why, with the right surgical approach, the scar is basically imperceptible.
What is Gynecomastia?
“Gynecomastia is a development in men of a hard nodule under the areola portion of the breast,” explains Dr. Thornton. This nodule or disc is typically comprised of a combination of both the structural tissue of the breast and the glandular tissue of the breast. While gynecomastia can oftentimes exhibit as just this simple knot or disc in an otherwise completely normal breast, most men also have some kind of generalized breast development.
Many men don’t realize that they have breast tissue just like women. “We also have a fatty component to the breast which makes up breast tissue in any person,” says Dr. Thornton.
What Causes Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia results from an imbalance in testosterone and estrogen levels. However, there are a number of different things that can cause hormones to get out of sync, such as prescription drugs and street drugs including:
- medications for an enlarged prostrate
- anti-anxiety medications
- certain antidepressants
There are also certain diseases or health conditions that can result in a hormone imbalance, such as:
- over active thyroid
- kidney failure
- certain tumors
- liver failure
Gynecomastia can also result from an unknown ideology, meaning that no one knows why it develops.
Onset of Gynecomastia
Thanks to the hormone component, men typically develop gynecomastia during one of three distinct periods in their lives. The first is as an infant. This usually resolves on its own in 2-3 weeks. The second peak period is puberty. While some boys are lucky and their gynecomastia is gone in only 6 months, for others the wait may take as long as 2 years. That can be an eternity for a teenage boy, during a time of life where over enlarged breasts can be particularly emotionally devastating. The last peak period is in older men, 50 – 64. As many as 1 in 4 men in this age group will develop some degree of gynecomastia.
It is vital when looking for a surgeon to treat your gynecomastia that he or she examines all of the various components. It is important to get the disc or knot out if you have it, but the surgeon must also address any generalized breast development by removing it. In the most severe cases, this would be like a simple mastectomy in women. The problem here is that many men shy away from a male breast reduction because they don’t want scars. Instead, they opt for the simplest treatment option which is removing any excess fat with liposuction. The problem with this approach is that if you have a disc or nodule, liposuction won’t treat it.
A mild degree of gynecomastia that is solely due to excess fat can be treated with liposuction, or even CoolSculpting in really mild cases. Bottom line, if you and your surgeon don’t treat both components if both are present, then you are going to have an unsatisfactory result.
Gynecomastia is Easily Treatable
Even though gynecomastia is extremely common, so many men are either:
- afraid to discuss it because they are embarrassed
- don’t realize that the treatment options are quite simple
- are afraid of the scar when they shouldn’t be
While cases can range from mild to moderate, even in the extreme cases where Dr. Thornton removes a large amount of generalized breast development as well as the nodule, “I generally make the incision just at the juncture between the darker and lighter skin around the areola.” There are no other incisions elsewhere on the breast. Because the scar rests at that juncture, it is virtually invisible. Furthermore, even in the most severe cases, the skin on the chest really bounces back and contracts. The result is the smooth, flat chest that brandishes masculinity.
Gynecomastia is also performed as an outpatient procedure in all cases. It has a quick recovery period, excellent healing and, most importantly, patients are overwhelmingly happy with the results.