It is never fun for a guy to be teased about having “man boobs.” While not always a serious condition, there are some instances where you may need to see a doctor. Male breast growth or male breast enlargement is when men experience growth in the breast tissues. It is also called gynecomastia. There are many factors that cause this ranging from low testosterone levels and elevated estrogen, to medication side-effects. It can happen on just one side or both. Gynecomastia can happen to men, boys during puberty and sometimes newborn babies due to the mother’s hormones. It isn’t life threatening, but may cause embarrassment or even be painful. The condition usually clears up by itself, but doctors can give medications or do surgery to correct the problem. Read on to learn more about breast growth in men.
Is Male Breast Growth Normal?
Male breast growth isn’t considered normal, but is more common than you think. Over 40 to 50 percent of males experience enlarged breasts at some time in life. It is often benign and most common in teenagers, middle aged and elderly men.
Experts say that more education on the condition is needed so that males do not feel alone and doctors can give proper treatment. While an embarrassing condition, discussing it with your doctor will help. Knowing that almost half of all males have this at some point in their life helps to ease any worries.
The only cause for concern is if you have any breast pain, tenderness, red lumps, or fever. Any of these symptoms should be checked by your doctor as soon as possible. They will need to run tests to look for infectious or cancerous causes, but these are usually rare in men.
Causes of Male Breast Growth
Male breast growth is usually caused by a shift in the hormone levels estrogen and testosterone. Men have small amounts of estrogen in their bodies and if the balance becomes higher than testosterone, breast tissue can grow. There are a few different causes including:
- Puberty. During puberty teenage boys may experience breast growth as the hormone levels stabilize. This will go away as puberty ends.
- Weight gain. Extra fat tissue can produce higher levels of estrogen in men. Fatty tissue can also collect in the chest area making the breasts appear larger.
- Low testosterone. Low testosterone levels can cause breast glands to become larger. This causes breasts to become larger and the body to deposit more tissue in the breast area.
- Thyroid disease. A hyperactive thyroid can cause breast enlargement in men.
- Liver disease. Cirrhosis of the liver can enlarge the breasts in men.
- Medications. Side effects of some medications can cause male breast growth. These include stomach acid reducers (Tagamet), steroids, diuretics (Aldactone), and (Casodex) for prostate cancer. An anti-psychotic known as (Risperdal) is another cause of male breast growth.
- Alcohol and drug use. Drinking alcohol and using certain drugs like marijuana can cause breast enlargement in men.
- Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy for cancer and radiation treatments on the testicles can temporarily disrupt the estrogen/testosterone balance in the body.
Even if the cause seems pretty benign, you should still consult your doctor if enlarged breasts do not seem to go away.
When to See a Doctor About Male Breast Growth
If breast enlargement persists, you have pain, or a lump in the breast you should contact your doctor. The doctor will then take your medical history, what medications you are taking, and your family medical history. Especially let your doctor know if you have a family history of breast cancer.
You will then have a breast examination and the doctor will check your testicles and stomach for any masses or lumps. They may order labs to check for hormone levels or infection. If you have a painful lump in your breast the doctor may also choose to biopsy the lump, do an ultrasound, or even a mammogram.
Treatments for Male Breast Growth
Usually enlarged breast in men clears up on its own. If your doctor thinks you need treatment, it largely depends on the cause. The following are treatments used for male breast growth:
- Watching and waiting
- Weight loss is helpful if the cause is due to being overweight.
- Stopping or changing certain medications that cause enlargement
- Medications such as Tamoxifen that blocks estrogen in the body and treats breast cancer, breast pain, and enlarged breasts. Also, Anastrozole for breast or ovarian cancer can help with decreasing enlarged breasts in men. In men who have low testosterone levels, giving low doses of testosterone may be helpful.
- Surgery can help to remove excess tissue from the breasts. An open cut is made into the breast and the tissue is removed. Liposuction has also been helpful to remove fatty build up in the chest area. This is a less invasive procedure with less risks. The risks of surgery and liposuction include long recovery time, infection, pain, and swelling.
Prognosis for Male Breast Growth
If the cause of breast enlargement in men is benign, meaning there is no serious cause, the prognosis is good. It usually only affects self-esteem and causes embarrassment due to having “man boobs.” Hormonal causes usually correct themselves or can be treated with medications to help balance the hormones. Once the condition is corrected, there may be some extra skin tissue in the skin area, which can be fixed by building chest muscle or surgery.
If the cause is due to either testicular cancer or breast cancer, the prognosis depends on how early the cancer is found and treatment is started. In the early stages, breast cancer is very treatable. This is why seeing your doctor as soon as possible is very important. Testicular cancer has a very good prognosis if caught early.