Medical Q&As

Gynaecomastia - treatment?

Are there any treatments for gynaecomastia available, or is surgery the only solution?

The medical term gynaecomastia is derived from Greek and literally means “woman’s breast”. It specifically refers to enlargement of the male breast, which can range from a small mass of tissue behind the nipple to a significant degree of enlargement with the breast assuming a very feminine appearance. There are many causes for gynaecomastia so it is important to establish the cause of the breast enlargement before embarking on treatment. Various metabolic and hormonal disorders can result in enlargement of the male breast and the appropriate treatment of the gynaecomastia resulting from those conditions is to treat the underlying disorder and not simply remove the breast tissue. For example disorders of the adrenal and thyroid glands can give rise to enlargement of male breast tissue. Various medications including steroids and some antihypertensives can also cause gynaecomastia. Cannabis has also been identified as a cause. Male breast enlargement peaks at three distinct times of life. Up to 90% of newborn babies have gynaecomastia and approximately 60% of adolescent males also display some degree of enlargement of breast tissue. The third peak of incidence occurs in middle age. The condition can be painful but the most troublesome aspect of the condition for most men is embarrassment and the restrictions that such embarrassment places on sport and leisure activities. Apart from treating the underlying cause, if one exists, the more usual form of treatment is to perform a liposuction type procedure, which literally sucks out the tissue from behind the nipple and areola. If an excessive amount of skin were present a more formal surgical procedure would offer the best cosmetic result. This would involve a larger surgical incision and removal of any excess skin. Certain medications may also help to reduce the amount of male breast tissue but since I have no experience of such treatments I am unable to offer you an opinion on their effectiveness or safety profile.