What is a Gynecomastia?
Everyone has breast tissue, including males. Gynecomastia (guy-na-ko-mas-tee-ah), or enlarged male breasts, is a common condition affecting one or both breasts in males. There are more than 3 million cases diagnosed each year in the United States. The breast tissue in men can swell due to a hormonal imbalance due to not enough testosterone, too much estrogen, or both, but other causes may exist. Gynecomastia can be painful and embarrassing. If your family has a history of gynecomastia, you are at a greater risk of developing it yourself.
Besides a hormone imbalance, other causes of gynecomastia include:
- Some prescription medications
- Some recreational drugs (steroids or marijuana)
- High intake of some foods (in rare cases)
- Certain essential oils
- Some liver or kidney diseases
- Hormone secreting tumors
- Rare genetic conditions
- High alcohol intake
Gynecomastia is most common in:
- Men ages 50 to 70 due to a loss in testosterone
- Babies who still have a lot of their mother’s estrogen in their bodies (this is temporary)
- Teenage boys going through puberty may also experience gynecomastia due to hormone changes
The signs of gynecomastia are straight forward and include:
- Swollen breasts
- Breast tenderness
- Nipple discharge
A diagnosis for Gynecomastia begins with a doctor’s examination. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and your family’s medical history. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine your breasts and possibly your abdomen and genitals. Standard procedures to complete your diagnosis may include:
- Blood tests to identify the cause of your gynecomastia
- Mammogram to identify any abnormalities in your breasts
- CT scan for a more detailed image than you can get with a mammogram to identify any abnormalities in your breasts
- MRI for a more detailed image than you can get with a CT scan
- Biopsy to rule out cancer
- Testicular ultrasound to rule out tumors
Gynecomastia frequently resolves on its own within two years without treatment, but if an underlying condition causes it, your doctor may choose to treat that condition. Also, if you take medications that may cause gynecomastia, your doctor may tell you to stop taking them and prescribe a different medication.
If gynecomastia does not resolve on its own, or if it is tender, painful, or embarrassing, then treatment may be necessary. Treatment options include:
- Some medications used to treat breast cancer or other conditions may help treat your gynecomastia.
- Surgery to remove the excess breast tissue, including liposuction or mastectomy.