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What is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is a condition that makes breast tissue swell in boys and men. All boys are born with a small amount of breast tissue.
Boy’s bodies mostly make a hormone called testosterone, which guides their sexual growth during puberty. But males also make some estrogen – the hormone that steers sexual growth in girls.
Sometimes a higher percentage of estrogen causes male breast tissue to swell. About half of adolescent boys and as many as two –thirds of men older than 50 will have this to some degree.
When a boy is going through puberty, or when an older man’s body makes less testosterone, the balance of the two hormones changes.
Causes of Gynecomastia
A lot of things can trigger the hormone imbalance that causes male breast growth, and many times the exact cause isn’t known.
In addition to body changes such as puberty and aging, some things that can cause Gynecomastia are:
- Injury or disease that affect the testicles, which make testosterone
- Thyroid problems, since hormones from that gland control growth and sexual development
- Some cancers, including tumors of the lungs, pituitary gland or adrenal glands.
- Obesity, which can result in more estrogen.
- Illegal drugs, including anabolic steroids, marijuana, and heroin
- Kidney failure (when they can no longer clean and filter your blood)
- Liver Disease
Some infant boys may get Gynecomastia briefly while hormones from their mother are still in their bodies.
Your first sign of Gynecomastia may be a lump of fatty tissue under the nipple. Sometimes this lump is tender or sore.
This might make you worry that you have breast cancer, which does occur in a small number of men. Gynecomastia is not necessarily a sign of cancer, but your doctor may run some tests to rule it out.
If your doctor suspects you have Gynecomastia, he will probably examine you to make sure there are no hard lumps, oozing fluid, or skin problems that could be signs of cancer.
Initial tests to determine the cause of your Gynecomastia may include:
- Blood tests
You may need further testing depending on your initial test results,. Including:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
- Testicular ultrasounds
- Tissue biopsies
Your doctor will want to be sure your breast swelling is actually Gynecomastia and not another condition. Other conditions that can cause similar symptoms include:
Fatty breast tissue: Some men and boys have chest fat that resembles Gynecomastia. This is called false Gynecomastia (pseudogynecomastia), and it isn’t the same as Gynecomastia.
Breast cancer: This is uncommon in men, but can occur. Enlargement of one breast or the presence of a firm nodule raises the concern for male breast cancer.
A breast abscess (mastitis): This is an infection of the breast tissue.
Why treat Gynecomastia:
90% are harmless but treatment must be required because of emotional disturbances.
How your condition is treated may depend on your age, your health, how long your condition may last, and how well you respond to certain drugs.
If Gynecomastia happens during puberty, it usually goes away on its own. This might take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years.
And in some cases, you might have surgery to take extra breast fat (liposuction) or breast gland tissue.(mastectomy)
In adolescents with no apparent cause of Gynecomastia, the doctor may recommend periodic re – evaluations every three to six months to see if the condition improves on its own.
Gynecomastia often goes away without treatment in less than two years. However, treatment may be necessary if Gynecomastia doesn’t improve on its own or if it causes significant pain, tenderness or embarrassment.
Surgery to remove excess breast tissue:
If you still have significant bothersome breast enlargement despite initial treatment or observation, your doctor may advise surgery. Two Gynecomastia surgery options are:
Liposuction: This surgery removes breast fat, but not the breast gland tissue itself.
Mastectomy: This type of surgery removes the breast gland tissue. Only small incisions are used. This less invasive type of surgery involves less recovery time.