Gynecomastia Surgery (Male Breast Reduction)
A broad, flat chest is one of the hallmarks of masculinity. However, for some men, no matter how much they work out or eat right, they still have a full chest. This condition, called gynecomastia (also know as “man boobs”), is so common that it affects about 36% of young men and 57% of older men in the Boston area. Gynecomastia can make you feel self-conscious in some clothing such as polo shirts. It may prevent you from wanting to partake in certain activities like swimming or going to the beach. And it can definitely take a toll on your self-confidence.
Gynecomastia is defined as an enlargement of the chest caused by an excessive amount of breast tissue, and breast gland. It can manifest as a fullness of the breasts, in breast tenderness or pain or as nipple discharge. These symptoms may affect one or both breasts. The trigger for gynecomastia is a decrease in testosterone or an increase in estrogen. While certain drugs and medical conditions can bring about this imbalance, the underlying cause of gynecomastia is often unknown.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty has extensive experience in treating gynecomastia. As a man himself, he is sensitive to how physically and emotionally traumatizing this condition can be. If you think that you may be suffering from gynecomastia, your first step is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Doherty at his Boston or Brookline office.
It is vital to get assessed in person. Just as there are different degrees of gynecomastia, there are different treatment options. Some patients may be able to get away with liposuction alone, but most are going to need a male breast reduction or gynecomastia surgery. It is a simple procedure in which Dr. Doherty removes the excess glandular tissue and fat from the breast area to deliver a firm, flat, masculine-looking chest.
What Causes Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia occurs when there is an imbalance in your testosterone and estrogen levels. All men have some estrogen. However, if these levels get too high, it can result in man boobs. There are three peak onset times for gynecomastia:
- Infancy: This typically resolves within 2-3 weeks of birth.
- Puberty: Hormonal imbalances during this time can result in swollen breast tissue, but it usually goes away on its own within 6 months to 2 years.
- Adult Age: Gynecomastia peaks in men between the ages of 50 – 69. As many as 1 in 4 men in this age group will be affected.
There are any number of factors that can cause your estrogen levels to rise or your testosterone levels to drop. These include alcohol and street drugs such as:
Prescription drugs such as:
- anti-androgens used to treat prostate enlargement
- ulcer medications
- heart medications
- diazepam and other anti-anxiety meds
- tricyclic antidepressants
There are also certain health conditions that can cause an imbalance in your hormone levels. These include:
- Klinefelter’s syndrome
- tumors involving the testes, adrenal glands or pituitary gland
- kidney failure
- cirrhosis or failure of the liver
Pseudogynecomastia vs. Gynecomastia
There is a lot of confusing information on the internet about pseudogynecomastia versus gynecomastia. Both are caused by a hormone imbalance. Both result in a swelling of the breasts. The difference is really one of clarification. Pseudogynecomastia is the result of an excessive amount of stubborn fat in the pectoral region of the chest. While gynecomastia is the result of an excessive amount of breast tissue and fat.
Most men don’t realize that we have breast tissue just like women. When your hormones get out of whack, it can result in a feminization of this tissue or ‘moobs’. If you are suffering from pseudogynecomastia and you are overweight, Dr. Doherty’s first suggestion will be to take off the excess weight. This may cause the gynecomastia to resolve on its own. Even if it does not deliver your ideal chest, it is always a good idea to be within 10 pounds of a maintainable goal weight before getting any kind of aesthetic surgery.
Gynecomastia Treatment Options
The right treatment option for you is going to depend on your anatomy, degree of gynecomastia and goals. Many men desire a completely flat chest. But as with all body contouring, the right chest for you is going to come down to proportion. Dr. Doherty will take the time during your consultation to really listen to your concerns and desired outcome. He will perform a physical exam to determine your level of gynecomastia, and then have an honest conversation with you about your best treatment options.
While there is no ‘natural’ do-it-yourself cure for gynecomastia, if it is the result of taking certain drugs or a medical condition, it should resolve once those drugs are stopped or the medical condition improves. If it is the result of excess weight, the gynecomastia should improve once you lose weight. In all other cases, however, the patient will require some type of gynecomastia surgery. In patients whose gynecomastia is solely the result of excess fat in the chest, Dr. Doherty will perform liposuction alone to decrease the size of your breasts. However, most men’s gynecomastia is the result of an excess of breast tissue and fat. For them, Dr. Doherty will perform a male breast reduction.
Male Breast Reduction Procedure
Depending on your type of gynecomastia, Boston plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty will use one of two male breast reduction techniques. In patients whose gynecomastia is caused mostly by excess fat, Dr. Doherty will perform liposuction of the chest area. He will suction out the excess fat with a small tube or cannula through several tiny incisions. This surgery is performed in the operating room either under local or general anesthesia.
In patients whose breast enlargement is due to excess breast or glandular tissue and excess fat, Dr. Doherty will surgically remove the excess breast tissue through an incision made around the areola. The areola tissue may need to be reduced to accommodate to your new chest. This will be discussed with you in detail during your initial consultation. Once the extra tissue is excised, Dr. Doherty will use liposuction to remove the excess fat and further contour your new chest. This surgery is performed in the operating room under general anesthesia.
While both liposuction for gynecomastia and the male breast reduction are performed in the operating room, neither requires an overnight stay. You can expect to feel sore for about 4-7 days after surgery. Part of this will do the anesthesia. You can have some mild to moderate bruising and swelling following your procedure. The bruising typically resolves within a couple of weeks. Certain homeopathic drugs such as arnica may help to speed up the process. The majority of your swelling will resolve within 6 weeks, and this is when you