Introduction to Gynaecomastia
Gynaecomastia is the increase in size of the male breast tissue.
What is Gynaecomastia?
Gynaecomastia is the increase in size of the male breast tissue. In Greek, gynae means woman and mastos means breast. It is non-cancerous (benign) and affects men at any age, although teenage boys and older men are commonly affected. Gynaecosmatia is thought to be present in at least a third of men throughout their life.
What causes Gynaecomastia?
Newborn babies can develop gynaecomastia as a result of the maternal oestrogens, and this usually resolves after a few weeks.
As boys undergo puberty, hormonal changes of the body will take place. Oestrogen stimulates breast growth while testosterone stops it. At certain times during puberty, oestrogen level may be higher than testosterone, causing breasts to grow due to increasing ducts and lobules. Also, body fat increases as you get older, and this may produce oestrogen. In addition to that, men produce less testosterone as they age. Together, these can cause breasts to become larger.
Some side effects of medications can also contribute to gynaecomastia. They may either behave as oestrogen or contain oestrogen. Certain drugs can also block testosterone production.
What are the symptoms of Gynaecomastia?
Signs include a small enlargement of the breast tissue just behind the nipple. In some cases, the breasts may grow to become more female-looking. This can affect one or both breasts. Affected area can be painful to touch. Other symptoms include chest tissue becomes asymmetrical or the areola (a small circular area surrounding the nipple) increases in diameter.
How is Gynaecomastia treated?
You will not need any treatment in most cases, as treating the underlying causes usually reverse gynaecomastia. However, please see your GP if it causes pain or if you are anxious or heavily concerned.
Amount of oestrogen production is determined by the number of fat cells in the body. Regular exercise and a well-balanced diet will prevent obesity, and hence gynaecomastia. Excessive drinking of alcohol should also be avoided.
Danazol, a drug that works by reducing testicular production of oestrogen or tamoxifen can be prescribed to help treat gynaecomastia. Both drugs have side effects including weight gain, nausea and an upset stomach. Therefore, you should only take the drugs after discussing with your GP regarding their benefits and risks.
Surgery acts as the last resort if your gynaecomastia has not improved with medications or lifestyle changes. A thorough discussion of any risks with your surgeon will help you to make an informed decision. The breast reduction surgery is typically carried out when you are put to sleep under general anaesthetic.