Following are the common questions about Gynecomastia:
- What is gynecomastia?
- What causes gynecomastia?
- Can gynecomastia occur at any age?
- What is the difference between true gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia?
- Can exercise resolve gynecomastia?
- What tests are performed to diagnose gynecomastia?
- Which is the best way to treat gynecomastia?
- How is gynecomastia surgery performed?
- What are the complications of gynecomastia surgery?
- How much does gynecomastia treatment cost?
- Is gynecomastia surgery covered under insurance?
- What are the non-surgical treatment methods for gynecomastia?
- Can gynecomastia cause cancer?
- Is it possible to prevent gynecomastia?
- What are the conditions that mimic gynecomastia?
Q. What is gynecomastia?
A. Gynecomastia is a medical condition in which the male breast start to grow due to hormonal changes. Normally, glandular tissues are present in both males and females. In males, these tissues don’t grow due to higher levels of testosterone. However, in some cases, the hormonal balance in males gets disturbed and if the estrogen levels are higher than testosterone, it will make the breasts grow. Gynecomastia can occur in one or both breasts as well.
Q. What causes gynecomastia?
A. The primary cause of gynecomastia is hormonal imbalance. And there are numerous things that can upset the hormonal balance, including the following-
- Natural hormone changes after birth, during puberty, and in old age.
- Medications, such as antidepressants, anabolic steroids, AIDS medications, ulcer medications, chemotherapy, heart medicines, anti-anxiety medicines, etc.
- Recreational drugs, illicit drugs, and alcohol.
- Health conditions, like hypogonadism, aging, tumors, hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, liver failure, malnutrition, and starvation.
- Herbal products, such as tea tree or lavender as they have weak estrogenic activity.
Q. Can gynecomastia occur at any age?
A. Yes. Gynecomastia can occur at any age. In children and teenagers, the condition usually resolves on its own once the hormones start to stabilize. However, in adults, gynecomastia usually requires treatment.
Q. What is the difference between true gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia?
A. True gynecomastia means that in the breasts, only glandular tissues are present. Pseudogynecomastia means that the female-like breast appearance is mainly caused by excess fat tissues.
Both these conditions are quite different from each other and require different treatments. However, in most people who have gynecomastia, both glandular tissues and fat tissues are present.
Q. Can exercise resolve gynecomastia?
A. No. Exercise cannot help to treat gynecomastia. It may improve the appearance of the breasts by making them more defined. But exercise cannot help to reduce the size of glandular tissues that are already grown. If fat tissues are present, then exercise may have a visible effect on the male breasts. Otherwise, your efforts will go in vain.
Q. What tests are performed to diagnose gynecomastia?
A. Normally, a doctor will be able to tell you if the condition is gynecomastia or not. Still, apart from physical examination, the doctor will recommend the following tests to confirm the diagnosis-
- Blood test to check the hormone levels.
- Urine test to again check the hormone levels.
- Imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan may be suggested to evaluate the tissue composition and internal structure.
- A mammogram is suggested so that early signs of cancer can be identified.
- A biopsy is also done to check if there are any abnormalities in the breast tissues.
All these tests are usually necessary to analyze the potential risks and mitigate them.
Q. Which is the best way to treat gynecomastia?
A. Gynecomastia is usually treated surgically and the procedure is called male breast reduction surgery. In this technique, liposuction and gland excision procedure is combined to effectively remove the enlarged breast tissues. The standalone techniques of liposuction and gland excision are helpful in treating pseudogynecomastia and true gynecomastia respectively. As most people have both glandular and fat tissues, the combination of these techniques is more appropriate.
Q. How is gynecomastia surgery performed?
A. Gynecomastia surgery or male breast reduction surgery takes place in the following steps-
- Anesthesia is given to the patient to numb the chest region and to ensure that the patient doesn’t feel any kind of pain or discomfort.
- A small incision is made around the areola to insert the liposuction cannula and it is used to break down the fat deposits around the breasts.
- The fat cells are extracted with the help of vacuum suction.
- A scalpel is used to excise the glandular tissues safely.
- The incision is closed properly with the help of stitches if needed or left to heal on its own.
- The patient is kept under observation for a few hours and discharged on the same day.
Q. What are the complications of gynecomastia surgery?
A. Gynecomastia surgery is somewhat a major procedure that can cause several complications, including-
- Bleeding during removal of fatty and glandular tissues
- Damage to the deeper structures, like muscles, nerves, or blood vessels
- Tissue death may occur if blood supply is cut off
- Anesthesia complications
- The chest may become asymmetrical after surgery
- Deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary complications may occur if fat tissues get stuck in blood vessels
- Fluid accumulation may occur if excess IV fluid is given
- Need of revision surgery if the results are not satisfactory
- Unfavorable scars may also occur due as a result of gynecomastia surgery
Most of these complications can be avoided by a skilled plastic surgeon.
Q. How much does gynecomastia treatment cost?
A. The cost of gynecomastia surgery ranges from Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 70,000 approximately. It is only an estimated price and the overall expense may differ slightly for each patient based on the following factors-
- Grade or severity of gynecomastia
- The technique chosen for treatment
- Diagnostic tests
- Choice of hospital
- Hospital admission, bed, and, discharge fee
- Surgeon’s consultation and operating fee
- Post-surgery care and support
- Follow-up consultations
The doctor will explain these factors during the consultation to help you understand the cost breakdown and also give you a specific estimate for the treatment.
Q. Is gynecomastia surgery covered under insurance?
A. Gynecomastia surgery is covered under an insurance policy when it is symptomatic and causes serious problems in regular life. Usually, grade 3 and 4 gynecomastia is problematic. Hence, treatment at this stage is entirely covered by insurance companies.
However, in earlier grades, the breast tissue growth is not that clear. It is usually a cosmetic problem in grades 1 and 2. Due to this, the treatment expense may not be covered by the insurance policy.
To know more about the terms and conditions under which gynecomastia surgery can be covered by health insurance, discuss with the insurance provider.
Q. What are the non-surgical treatment methods for gynecomastia?
A. In many people, gynecomastia often resolves on its own once the primary cause of the condition is identified and addressed. For instance, if gynecomastia is caused due to regular use of a specific medicine, stopping the use of that medicine or taking an alternative one will resolve the problem.
In other cases, hormone replacement therapy can also be helpful to replace the estrogen in the body with testosterone.
You should also know that once the breast glandular tissues start to grow, the growth won’t be reversed under any condition. You will have to undergo surgery to remove those tissues effectively.
Q. Can gynecomastia cause cancer?
A. No. Gynecomastia doesn’t cause cancer. It can increase a male’s chances of getting breast cancer. But still, the chances are almost negligible. However, gynecomastia can occur due to testicular tumors and appears as the first sign. That’s why the doctors usually advise that the condition should not be left untreated for a long time.
Q. Is it possible to prevent gynecomastia?
A. Generally, prevention of gynecomastia is very difficult as a hormonal imbalance can be caused by a variety of things. So, the best thing you can do to prevent gynecomastia is to avoid medicines, herbal products, and foods that can alter hormone levels. Other than that, you should also abstain from using drugs like anabolic steroids, amphetamines, marijuana, and heroin. Drinking alcohol should also be avoided if you want to keep your hormone levels in check.
Q. What are the conditions that mimic gynecomastia?
A. There are some conditions that cause swelling in the breasts and are often mistaken for gynecomastia. These conditions are-
- Fatty breast tissues or pseudogynecomastia
- Breast cancer, uncommon but still possible
- Breast abscess, i.e., infection of the breast tissues.