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Gynecomastia | Overview

Overview

Gynecomastia is a condition in which above-average amounts of breast tissue form in males.

  • This tissue is usually less than two inches wide.
  • Typically located directly under one or both nipples.

Surgical options

In most boys, gynecomastia goes away on its own with no treatment. If it doesn’t go away, however, Boston Children’s Hospital plastic surgeons can remove the extra breast tissue. The procedure is relatively easy, recovery is quick and the risk of complications is low.

Gynecomastia | Symptoms & Causes

In-Depth

What causes gynecomastia?

Usually, it’s just a result of elevated estrogen levels during puberty. This kind of gynecomastia almost always just goes away with time.

In rare cases, it can have other causes:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Illegal drugs (such as marijuana and steroids)
  • Tumors
  • Certain genetic disorders and conditions such as Klinefelter Syndrome.

How common is gynecomastia?

It’s not unusual or abnormal in adolescent boys. Temporary breast enlargement often happens during adolescence when there are hormonal changes.

  • About half of all males between 12 and 16 who are going through puberty experience some form of gynecomastia in one or both breasts.
  • It’s usually a temporary condition, and it is quite abnormal for the breasts to stay developed, eventually flattening out completely in a few months to a few years.
  • Since it usually goes away on its own, typically no medical treatment or surgery is needed.

Can it be prevented?

Because gynecomastia occurs naturally in the body during puberty, no known method can prevent it.

A healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise may affect the development of the breast. And keep in mind that some forms of illegal drug use have been linked with gynecomastia.

What are the symptoms?

Gynecomastia is not physically harmful, although it can occasionally indicate more serious underlying conditions. Occasionally, boys with gynecomastia experience tenderness that can be treated with medications.

It’s more common to experience psychological and social issues rather than physical problems.

Are there any associated disorders?

Pseudogynecomastia (or false gynecomastia) has nothing to do with puberty or hormones.

  • It is simply due to the fact that some males may have extra fat in the chest area, making it appear like they have breasts.
  • A simple exam with doctor can determine whether or not your child has gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia.
  • Gynecomastia can have a major emotional impact on boys and can include feelings of shame, embarrassment and depression.
  • Boys with gynecomastia often hide their chests in public or withdraw socially and avoid discussing their concerns with parents and peers.
    Contact our specialists directly if gynecomastia is causing you or your son emotional distress.

Gynecomastia | Testing & Diagnosis

Tests

How is gynecomastia diagnosed?

Since gynecomastia is usually a side effect of puberty, there is no need for diagnosis. If the breasts do not flatten out, however, your doctor can do a routine check-up to make sure there’s no underlying issue.

Gynecomastia | Treatments

How gynecomastia treated?

In most cases, no treatment is needed for gynecomastia. The condition seldom progresses to the point where a boy will be embarrassed about the breast growth.

In 90 percent of teenage boys, gynecomastia goes away in less than three years.

Some boys find that wearing loose-fitting clothing makes the condition appear less noticeable until the extra tissue goes away over time. A doctor should still monitor the condition every few months.

For the remaining 10 percent of males who continue to have gynecomastia, treating the underlying cause may improve the condition. Some treatment possibilities are:

  • Ending or switching medications
  • Losing weight
  • Surgical removal of extra tissue

Gynecomastia | Programs & Services