16 October 2009

Men with boobs

It’s a rare condition and yes, it happens outside of men’s nightmares. Talking about this is arguably one of the last taboos among men.

It’s a rare condition and yes, it happens outside of men’s nightmares. Talking about this is arguably one of the last taboos among men. They may be able to discuss erectile dysfunction and testicular cancer with manly candour. But the idea of having breasts is in another league, much like having your soccer mates around for around a beer, only to have them discover your secret stash of Julio Iglesias LPs.

Gynaecomastia can be the result of a hormone imbalance or hormone therapy. It’s also caused by being too fat. Whatever the cause, it’s mortifying. The tissue is usually less than eight centimetres (about two inches) across and is located directly under the nipple. It may be present on one side or both. This condition may make the breast tender.

Some men and boys have fat on their chests that makes it look like they have breasts. This condition is called pseudogynaecomastia, or false gynaecomastia. It’s not the same as gynaecomastia, but that’s of little comfort to those suffering from it, particularly during puberty, when egos are fragile and peers’ tongues are sharp.

Gynaecomastia is usually triggered by shifting hormone balances at puberty or as part of the ageing process. Hormones are chemicals produced by the glands such as the thyroid gland, the testes and the ovaries. Changes in the balance of two hormones, oestrogen and testosterone can bring the condition on. In rare cases, it’s also caused by prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, illegal drugs, tumours or disease.

Your doctor is likely to ask about your symptoms, such as how long you've had the breast tissue, and whether or not the area is tender, as well as your medical history, the medicines you take, and other matters relating to your health. Then you’ll have a physical examination and perhaps some tests. In the majority of cases, no treatment is needed. Your doctor will probably want to check the size of your breast tissue every few months. In 90 percent of teenage boys, gynaecomastia makes a welcome exit in less than three years.

Treatment is likely to be necessary only if the gynaecomastia is being caused by a disease or a tumour. While men have been known to develop breast cancer, it’s rare. Lumps caused by cancer are usually not underneath the nipple, but breast tissue from gynaecomastia grows in this area. Also, breast cancer feels different than the breast tissue of gynaecomastia. With cancer, there sometimes is dimpling of the skin or a bloody discharge from the nipple. If there is any question that you have cancer, you’ll need to have a mammogram and a biopsy. – (William Smook)



ManYour body

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.