Gynecomastia – Male Breast Reduction

When you walk into a room feeling confident, it shows, and others notice. Unfortunately there are things that can rob you of your confidence, make you feel a little less than comfortable in your appearance and take away your edge. Most of the time these little things are simply insecurities that we all carry around with us, but some are physical attributes that can be changed easily to help restore your confidence.

Fatty areas around your chest can be one of those things that can absolutely change the way you interact with the world around you. Boys and men around the world may feel that the only way to deal with a “breast-like” look to their chest may be to cover it up and never take their shirt off in public. With modern fashion styles being a lot more tailored, baggy is out and slim-fit is in, this can be much more noticeable than in times past and can make you feel “different.”

Is This a Common Problem?

The official term for excess tissue in your chest area is gynecomastia. The medical term comes from the Greek and it literally means “female-like breasts.” Most boys and men don’t like to talk about it too much and are often unaware that there are some straightforward things that can be done about it. In reality it is lot more common than you think. About 40 to 60 per cent of all men have some amount of gynecomastia. That’s right, just about half of all men and boys have some degree of female-appearing breasts. All males can develop some extra amount of breast tissue in response to some medications, hormonal swings, taking performance-enhancing drugs or simply because we were born with more than our fair share of breast tissue. Spend any time at all on a beach and you’ll see how many young men already have a bit too much breast tissue; which began to show up right after puberty came knocking on their door.

The condition is pretty common in adolescent boys, and 90% of the time symptoms disappear in a matter of months, or at least a few years later. But the remaining 10% are burdened with a social handicap that causes a deep and complex shame, and that can put your relationship with your body at risk.

Why Me?

Why some of us develop female appearing breasts and others don’t is a tricky question. The causes are never the same for everyone. Sometimes we never know the exact reason, but most often gynecomastia is caused by an imbalance of hormones. Here’s the deal, gynecomastia is usually triggered by low amounts of the male hormone testosterone compared with estrogen. It doesn’t mean that you have low testosterone, it means that there is a little too much estrogen mixed in with all the other hormones your body makes.

Testosterone and estrogen control sex features in both men and women. Testosterone controls the male traits, such as big muscles and body hair. Estrogen controls the female traits, including the growth of breasts. Most people think of estrogen as a hormone just for women, but men also produce it — in relatively small amounts. However, male estrogen levels that are too high or are out of balance with testosterone levels can cause gynecomastia.

There are other ways you can develop gynecomastia. Although many males suffer with excess breast tissue since puberty, most men who suffer from gynecomastia develop it at an older age. The causes in men are still related to excess estrogen but are influenced by other factors:

  • There is a long list of medications that can cause gynecomastia. You should look up any medications you are taking to see if they could be causing your problem and then discuss it with your doctor.
  • Using street drugs like amphetamines, marijuana, heroin, methadone and even alcohol can cause gynecomastia.
  • Some medical conditions can cause gynecomastia as well, such as: tumors, aging, thyroid problems, liver failure, and kidney failure.
  • Some herbal over-the-counter products such as tea tree, lavender, and even soy products have been associated with gynecomastia.

So What Can I Do About It?

A lot of men will go crazy working out in the gym hoping that more exercise and “getting pumped” or “getting more cut” will make it look better. In fact, it can make it look worse. Here’s how that works:

Breasts are made up of two types of tissue: fat and breast tissue. This holds true for both men and women. The greater percentage of fat in your breasts, the more you will notice fluctuations in breast size when you gain or lose a few pounds. Women who have breasts mainly comprised of breast tissue will see less amount of swings in breast size and tend to have fairly consistent breast size throughout their lives. The reason this is important is that if you have more than your fair share of breast tissue, it will remain there no matter how much weight you lose. In fact, if you become very lean and lose a lot of body fat, the excess breast tissue in your chest area will actually become more noticeable, not less! That’s because that tissue will now be sitting on top of lean chest muscle and will appear like a small breast mound under the nipple. That is why here at Cornerstone Plastic Surgery, Dr. Coville always takes the extra breast tissue as well.

What Kind of Surgery Will Work?

Liposuction in all its forms: laser liposuction, ultrasound, fat freezing or melting will only remove the excess fatty tissue in the area. The extra breast tissue will still be there. You may see a nice improvement with liposuction alone, but usually it is not enough for a complete and permanent result.

There are new technologies out there that will claim to remove excess breast tissue or correct gynecomastia. However, there is no scientific evidence that these non-invasive techniques that destroy fat from outside the skin work enough for removing male breast tissue. In fact, Dr. Fred Coville sees many men who have been dissatisfied by those machine treatments; or even liposuction done by doctors who don’t understand the full extent of gynecomastia and leave it mostly untreated.

Because puberty involves huge productions of sex hormones, this is often when gynecomastia starts to appear. This is an especially vulnerable time for most boys in terms of wanting to fit in with their peers, being active in sports, and being more conscious of their appearance and sexual attractiveness. So there can be a very real emotional component to boys and men who begin to show extra breast tissue. Dr. Fred Coville has been treating men and boys with this problem for over twenty five years. He is keenly aware and very sensitive to the emotional impact and shame that may accompany gynecomastia.


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