Gynecomastia comes from the Greek words gyne (woman) and mastos (breasts). The problem with gynecomastia is that is found only on the male chest. Every week, in our San Francisco Bay Area, Walnut Creek, California office, we see men wanting their gynecomastia removed. They are self conscious about going shirtless. Advanced gynecomastia can be large enough to be problematic, even in clothing. Even patients who have lost significant amounts of weight, may not lose their gynecomatia. And when excess skin persists, so does the embarrassment. If you are concerned by extra fullness in your chest, Dr. Joseph Mele, in the San Francisco East Bay Area city of Walnut Creek, may be able to help.
Every male is born with gynecomastia. At birth, the condition is due to the mother's hormones passing through the placenta. The female hormones designed to increase the size of the mother's breasts also increase the amount a glandular tissue in the infant's breast, resulting in a firm rubbery lump beneath the areola. Since babies do not normally make high levels of female hormones themselves, the hormone levels drop quickly after birth, and the gynecomastia resolves spontaneously.
Gynecomastia can return at puberty. The exact mechanism is unknown, but most likely it is in response to the breast tissue's sensitivity to sex hormones. Moderate male adolescent breast development usually subsides in a few years, unless obesity is also present. Persistence of adolescent gynecomastia accounts for 25% of all gynecomastia cases. In rare cases, gynecomastia can also be the result of hormone producing tumors (often testicular).
Adult gynecomastia can be the result of medications too. Many common drugs have been indicated including: steroids, some antidepressants, digitalis (Digoxin), furosemide (Lasix), estrogen, exogenous testosterone, alcohol, marijuana and heroin to name a few. Chemotherapy for prostate cancer can cause significant gynecomastia, and at times, frank breast development.
Gynecomastia can be classified by type. Usual gynecomastia has two components: glandular tissue and fatty tissue. The glandular tissue is firm, rubber-like, and frequently tender. It is most commonly confined to the area behind the areola and nipple, but can encompass the entire breast in severe cases. The fatty tissue can also occur anywhere in the breast, but is most commonly concentrated in the lower breast. Fatty tissue is soft, so just like fat elsewhere in the body, it can often be removed with liposuction alone. The firm glandular tissue usually requires direct surgical removal.
Gynecomastia can be classified by location, size, cell type or age. Although not a medical term, moobs, the contraction of man boobs, has become a common term for gynecomastia. If you remember what gynecomastia means, moobs is technically more accurate. Here are some common medical terms for gynecomastia, and there are many more:
Below are the common methods of male breast reduction used to treat gynecomastia. It is different than Female Breast Reduction Surgery. These are only a guide. Specific recommendations can be made only after a careful medical history and a focused physical examination. If you want specific information, call our Gynecomastia Specialist, Dr. Joseph Mele, at his Walnut Creek Plastic Surgery office, (925) 943-6353, to schedule your private, confidential consultation. Alternatively, you can also use our convenient contact form.
Liposuction is effective for removing fat. A minimal incision is sufficient for fat removal. As long as the skin tone is good, liposuction is the preferred surgical option for treating pseudogynecomastia. Tumescent liposuction is the most commonly used method of treatment, and it can be preformed on an outpatient basis. Liposuction is not effective for the removal of the tough glandular tissue which frequently develops beneath the areola. To remove purely glandular gynecomastia, glandular resection is most effective.
The firm glandular tissue that develops beneath the areola requires direct excision for removal. A small curved incision is hidden along the lower edge of the areola, and the gynecomastia tissue is directly removed. A layer of subcutaneous tissue is preserved beneath the areola to prevent indentation of the nipple, and the removal is tapered at the edges to maintain a smooth contour. When the gynecomastia also consists of adipose tissue that extends significantly past the edges of the areola, liposuction is used to remove the fat and further feather the edges.
Often gynecomastia has both glandular and fatty components. The two methods above can be combined to give you optimal results. As long as the skin tone is good, liposuction combined with direct glandular resection, can safely and effectively reduce the chest, and create a more masculine contour.
When the chest skin looses elasticity, it cannot shrink flat after gynecomastia is reduced. This can result in sagging. Redundant skin can fold over at the base of the breast and hang past the InfraMammary Fold (IMF). This is treated by surgically removing the excess skin. An incision is made in the IMF and the redundant skin is removed. If the skin is not overly redundant, the nipple and areola remain above the IMF. If the nipple and areola are below the IMF, a free nipple graft is indicated.
For gynecomastia treatment, the nipple and areola are not usually removed; however, in certain situations a free nipple graft may provide the best results. If the chest skin is so redundant that the nipple hangs below the IMF, breast skin reduction as described above is indicated. However, removing the redundant skin means complete removal of the nipple and areola. The nipple and areola are replaced on the chest as a graft. A free nipple graft is much like a skin graft. Since no breast tissue needs to be preserved to keep the graft alive, a flatter, more masculine chest can be created. The down side is loss of nipple sensation. Some sensation can return with time, but the nipple is expected to remain less sensitive after grafting.