Gynecomastia, a Term Most Parents Don’t Know
San Francisco, CA-Gynecomastia, often misspelled, mispronounced, and misunderstood. Most people are not aware that having male breasts is a condition that can be caused by many different factors including, heredity, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, steroids, Klinefelter’s syndrome, puberty, aging, weight gain, and cancer of the male breast. For some, the cause remains unknown. If a pediatrician tells parents that their son has gynecomastia, many ask “what is gynecomastia?”If parents haven’t heard of the condition, how can they help their sons?
In 1995, there was an episode on Seinfeld where Kramer one of the main characters, invented “the Bro” also to be known as “the Manssiere”, a bra for men. This episode brought humorous attention to the condition except for those that suffer with male breasts. Negative attention has been in the media off and on ever since with cruel descriptive words like; man boobs, moobs, bitch tits, he-hooters, dude rack, man cans and more.
As boys enter puberty, it is not uncommon for them to develop female type breasts or what is termed as “puffy nipples”. At an average age of 13, this phenomenon is usually brought about by hormones being out of balance, but usually when the hormones even out the breasts will disappear. When the hormones are raging, for both boys and girls, they can become extremely emotional and sensitive and for good reason, their bodies are going through a lot of changes. This can be a very confusing time for young people and having supportive parents can make all the difference in the world.
As much as 40% to 50% or more young men going through puberty will develop some degree of gynecomastia on one or both sides. A visit to the pediatrician is in order to monitor any breast growth. For 90% of young men, the gynecomastia will resolve on its own within a few months to a couple of years. For the small percentage of boys that the gynecomastia remains, parents ask, “what is the treatment for gynecomastia?” There are no known treatments that can reverse the formation of breast tissue once it has remained past puberty except male breast reduction surgery. The good news is that the male breast reduction procedure is very successful with almost no evidence of surgery having been performed.
Gynecomastia can be demoralizing for any man, but for young boys who do not understand what is happening to their body, it can be devastating. Most feel it is their fault and experience incredible shame. They are not comfortable telling anyone what they are going through and do their best to hide their chest with loose fitting shirts. They avoid situations where they might have to bare their chest, such as going to a pool or the beach. It is amazing how many young boys are able to hide their breasts from their parents and hide the agony they are experiencing. Classmates can be especially cruel with teasing and name calling for the boy with breasts.
It is hopeful that parents will notice any unusual breast development in their son so that they can be good support for them. If it is before puberty starts or before 9 years of age it could be a more serious complication, and he needs to be seen by a physician. Search engines on the internet make information readily available. Family members or friends who have some knowledge of gynecomastia may take parents aside and guide them to seek help for their son. Pediatricians are in a position to alert parents and educate them and their son.
The World’s best resource for information on gynecomastia is www.gynecomastia.org. There is a directory of Board Certified Plastic Surgeons throughout the United States. The site offers many before and after pictures of male breast reduction patients, a blog page with interesting articles posted by member surgeons.
The most popular and active section of the site is the forums. One of the most popular forums is called “gynecomastia talk” where boys and men can share questions and experiences, and then there is a forum called “your stories”, one called “ask a doctor” whereby guys can post questions to the surgeons who are members of the site.
Another forum is called “surgery success stories”, this section has several stories written by boys and/or their parents. One in particular tells of a boy who had been silently suffering with his gynecomastia breasts for a long time and finally in an attempt to hide them better ordered a compression shirt that was supposed to help flatten his chest. His package arrived when he wasn’t home, and his Mom saw it first. When he came home and saw her with it he was beyond embarrassed, but it turns out his parents were very supportive and even willing to down-size their house in order to have enough money for him to have male breast reduction surgery. He didn’t allow that to happen, but the door was now open for them to have good communication and find a way to resolve his problem. This incident helped him to have a closer relationship with his parents.
There are many similar stories posted on gynecomastia.org. Unfortunately, not all young men are so lucky to have such supportive parents, but many of the forum members encourage young men to try talking to their parents. For those that do not have a good support system, gynecomastia.org is even more valuable. Many boys and men have found the support they need from other forum members, with ways to deal with all the different issues gynecomastia presents.