As part of #MensHealthWeek, we’re highlighting some of the most common yet unspoken health issues that affect men around the world. Read more from our health pillar here.
You may have heard the sentiment that men who take a bunch steroids, and then stop, can eventually get man boobs. But do you know this development actually has a name?
Gynaecomastia is caused by an imbalance of oestrogen and androgens which can occur at any time, and has a huge impact on the body image of men who have it.
One doctor, 48-year-old Swedish-born Australian-trained specialist surgeon Dr Bernard Beldholm, specialises in performing procedures to help correct Gynaecomastia, and is incredibly passionate about helping men work through these self-confidence issues.
“The physiological trauma associated with gynaecomastia can be devastating, however it’s often brushed aside in the medical world as the condition usually is of no danger to the physical health of the individual. From embarrassment and low self-esteem to depression and anxiety, left untreated the damage of this condition can become lasting and detrimental to the individual’s wellbeing.”
Dr Bernard breaks down exactly what it is below.
What is it?
Gynaecomastia is the development of breast tissue in males causing male breast to grow/appear. Genuine breast tissue – the same as women have. Not extra muscle or fat glands as some people believe.
There is also Pseudogynaecomastia which is fatty breast tissue, but generally this occurs in overweight males, who (due to their weight) produce more oestrogen naturally increasing their likelihood of developing gynaecomastia.
What causes it?
Gynaecomastia is caused by an imbalance of the Oestrogen and Androgen hormones, which can occur at any time. These types of hormonal imbalances commonly occur in males going through teenage hormonal changes, or adult males who have engaged with anabolic steroids and ceased use.
What are the symptoms? How do you know you have it?
2 key signs you have Gynaecomastia are:
– A pushed out nipple i.e. from a side view, the male breast looks like a ski slope (see before and after picture attached)
– A rubbery feeling within the breast area – it feels like a squash ball.
Most patients also notice their shirts sitting differently once the tissue has developed.
How is it treated?
There is not proven level of effectiveness with oestrogen blockers, so gynaecomastia surgery is the only treatment available to remove the breast tissue. It is a 1.5 hour long procedure, in and out of hospital within one day assuming all goes well (every patient is different but usually it’s a day procedure). Estimated surgeon cost is $ 4990.
What happens if it’s not treated?
It does not go away on its own. We see patients who try and tape down their affected areas, use nipple shields, use compression vests or consistent wear overly baggy clothing to avoid others seeing their breasts. However Gynaecomastia doesn’t go away (just like female womens breast tissue) it doesn’t just disappear. We have had patients come to us at 40-years-old who have been suffering with gynaecomastia since they were 15.
What are the effects of Gynaecomastia on mental health?
While women who underdevelop or have lost breast tissue tend to feel less feminine, men who suffer from gynaecomastia tend to feel more feminine. This can be harsh in a ‘suck it up’ type of aussie culture.
We see a lot of patients coming in who express feelings of sadness about their appearance, and have lost confidence due to developing ‘man boobs’. The teenager component of Gynaecomastia patients especially tend to have self-esteem issues due to teasing/bullying by their peers for not fitting in to a specific cookie-cutter male physique. Teenage change rooms can be an unforgiving experience for a teenage boy who has developed ‘man boobs’ remembering that the people who develop gynaecomastia aren’t always overweight people. As you can see in the before and after picture, this patient was not overweight, he developed gynaecomastia. Patients express to us that they don’t go on dates for fear of judgement and not wanting to take their shirts off should things ‘get physical’ on their dates. They don’t socialise for fear of judgement either e.g. our patients don’t partake in Australian Beach culture because they don’t want to be seen shirtless. Gynaecomastia has a big impact on those affected by it: physically, socially, psychologically.
However. Pre and post-surgery confidence is real (and this is the part we love). When most of our gynaecomastia patients first come in for a consult and get their ‘before’ photos they tend to hesitate and don’t smile. However, at the post op check ups we see a marked improvement in attitude and willingness to remove shirts as well as smiling for the camera, despite the fact that we are focussing on their chests!