The development of “Manboobs” is not an uncommon problem but it is a very embarrassing one for a large number of men.
We traditionally think of it occurring in older men who are gaining weight but it can occur at any age. It is sometimes even seen in babies. The other period when it is common is around puberty. In older men roughly 4 in 10 men will develop a degree of breast fullness.
The medical name for the condition is Gynaecomastia. (guy-nee-co-s-tee-ah) It is essentially enlargement of the male breast area and can involve enlargement of the breast glandular tissue and the fat in the pectoral region.
Breast tissue is in fact tissue related to glands of the skin. These glands respond to hormones in the blood. There are periods in men’s lives when the level of oestrogen can elevate a little and produce glandular enlargement. There may also be glandular tissue which is overly sensitive to normal levels of oestrogens. These are the most common situations in which we see glandular growth causing gynaecomastia.
Gynaecomastia may also be due to a range of abnormal causes. These include liver disease, various medications, non prescription medications such as steroids and rarely underlying changes in the production of male and female hormones.
Dr John Newton sees several patients every year for this condition and knows that it is more common and significantly more distressing than it is generally thought. “We tend to make light of “manboobs” but they are often a very upsetting and embarrassing condition for a significant number of men and boys”.
The two different forms of gynaecomastia (glandular and fatty) present two different requirements for treatment.
“Where there is significant glandular tissue it is definitely my preference to make an incision along the inferior border of the areola (the pigmented area around the nipple itself) and through this incision actually dissect out and excise the breast tissue”, states Dr Newton. “I believe this to be the most effective way of removing this breast tissue and reducing the chance of problems in the future”.
“Where there is primarily fat involved or where fat is also a contributing factor then other modalities come into play. Liposuction is a good method of reducing pure fatty gynaecomastia and for refining areas of excess fat around an area of glandular tissue. Occasionally it is also necessary to cut out excess skin”.
Recovery after the surgery is generally straight forward. “Obviously patients who have undergone gynaecomastia surgery will have to be respectful and careful of themselves for a period of about 4 weeks to avoid injury. If a patient undergoes liposuction it may also be necessary for them to wear an elasticised garment for a period of time after the surgery”, states Dr Newton.
The embarrassing condition of manboobs (or gynaecomastia) which does not respond to weight loss can be managed with surgery and with a realistic outlook, satisfactory improvements in appearance and greater levels of self confidence can provide satisfying results.