Gynecomastia: Living with man-boobs

Men and women alike take pride in how other people appreciate and perceive them. Our physical appearance and attributes usually boost our confidence, and undeniably affect our personality.

In a world where everyone wants to be in the limelight, whether on the big screen or just on social media, most of us are now more adventurous, willing to take risks and willing to be under the scrutiny of other people through different social media platforms.

But what if you are a man with breasts larger than the breasts of the women you know? Will you still be willing to post photos and videos of yourself on social media?

Living with man boobs

In a society where manhood and virility is usually defined by a well-built physique with six-pack abs, well-defined triceps, and biceps, living with man-boobs can bring your spirit down.

Most people are not aware that man boobs or gynecomastia is a common condition wherein men’s breasts tissue swell or overdevelop and become larger than normal. This can occur at any age, however, most cases of gynecomastia, occur during puberty and may persist until adulthood.

Dr. Vicente Firmalo on Gynecomastia: Living with man-boobs
Dr. Vicente Firmalo

According to a board-certified surgeon who has been known in the industry for specializing in gynecomastia surgery Dr. Vicente Firmalo, many Filipino males suffer from gynecomastia and most males who have this condition are really looking for a way to rid of their big breasts.

“Men and women both have breast tissue but usually in smaller amounts in men,” Firmalo said.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeon says that gynecomastia happens due to several factors such as hormonal changes, heredity, obesity, or the use of certain drugs, and it is often characterized by excess fat, excess glandular tissue development, sometimes excess breast skin, and may appear on one breast or both breasts.

“We all know that men produce a hormone called testosterone while female hormone is called estrogen. Males also produce a small amount of estrogen. These hormones steer sexual growth in boys and girls. When there is an imbalance in the production of these hormones, it can affect their growth. For example, when a male produces less testosterone, and more estrogen, this causes male breast tissue to swell during pubertal years,” Firmalo explained.

Signs, symptoms, and complications

“From almost over 300 gynecomastia surgeries I have done since I became a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, the most common signs and symptoms are: a lump of firm tissue under the nipple or whole breast in one or both sides, tenderness or puffy areola. Sometimes, there is discomfort due to tenderness and sometimes there is discharge from the nipple. Another sign could be increased diameter of the areola,” Dr. Vice explained while adding, “If you have these signs and symptoms, it is best to have an appointment with a doctor to rule out signs of other illnesses such as cancer and can help you with the right treatment and procedure for your condition.”

Aside from obvious signs and symptoms, he also pointed out that gynecomastia can also impact one’s mental health.

“Those who have decided to correct gynecomastia through surgery are not just fixing their physical appearance but it is also their way to improve their mental health since this condition can make the sufferer feel embarrassed, depressed or anxious. Some of my patients were bullied because of their gynecomastia, they became the laughing stock in their groups or even in the family.”

Firmalo shared that because gynecomastia usually starts during pubertal years in a man’s life, some patients really experience bullying. “Peers or people in the community would tease them and they (patients) may seem okay with it but they may be suffering inside – feeling sorry, insecure, anxious among other emotions.”

“Gynecomastia in general, is usually a harmless medical condition but it can trigger depression and anxiety especially if you are being bullied for having it,” Firmalo said.

Treatments for Gynecomastia

Most cases of gynecomastia can be addressed through surgical procedures.

“Some chests increase in size from weight gain and I usually recommend regular exercise to decrease the fat in their chest. This will help see which is the gynecomastia. To those who have hormonal imbalance, they will also have to see an endocrinologist. However, when the hormones have become normal, this is not an assurance or guarantee that the gynecomastia or gland will vanish, some will achieve their desired results, but not everyone will respond to hormonal treatments. In this case, if they are willing to go under the knife and their gynecomastia is causing them pain or distress, we can fix this through surgery

The surgeon also stressed that it is important to only consult with board-certified plastic surgeons and the patients should also be careful in choosing their doctors. “It is also best to know your surgeon and his experiences in doing the procedure, the number of gynecomastia surgery he’s done, and what sort of follow-up a patient should do after the surgery.”

According to Firmalo, gynecomastia surgery or male breast reduction might involve liposuction to rid of the fats, removal of excess tissues, and areola reduction. “The surgery will take around a couple of hours and the patient can be discharged from the center the same day.”

Full recovery, however, Dr. Vice shared, might take between 4 to 6 months up to a year and patients are advised to refrain from doing strenuous activities and proper hygiene and wound care should be observed. A calendar of allowable activities should also be discussed with your surgeon and gradual progression to heavy activities.

Gynecomastia may be a common condition among teenage boys and older men, and sometimes even we can become insensitive when we tease them about their condition, according to Firmalo, “They suffer in silence from the bashing, teasing and bullying and these affect their mental health, so let’s be sensitive and encourage them to address their condition.”

Dr. Vicente Firmalo is a Fellow of the Philippine Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgeons (PAPRAS); Diplomate, Philippine Board of Plastic Surgery; International Member, American Society of Plastic Surgeons; Member, International Society of Plastic and Regenerative Surgeons (ISPRES); and Volunteer Surgeon, Smile Train and Operation Smile.

To know more about his services you may visit him at the Centuria Medical Makati; The Medical City South Luzon Sta. Rosa, Laguna; UERMMMC, Quezon City; Clinica Antipolo. You can also check www.firmaloplasticsurgery.com or facebook page Dr. Vice – Vicente Firmalo, MD.

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