Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Gynecomastia Surgery (or Male Breast Reduction)

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Female breast reductions have spiked over the last few years, and it’s easy to understand why: breasts that are too large can be uncomfortable, painfully heavy, get in the way of a workout, and sometimes make it difficult to fit into clothing. Having large breasts can be a serious pain for many women, but did you know that a lot of men suffer from enlarged breasts, too?

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Gynecomastia, or enlarged breasts in males, is a condition many men suffer from, but rarely ever talk about. We spoke with New Jersey-based plastic surgeon, William Franckle, MD, FACS, all about the surgery, how it differs from female breast reduction surgery, and what exactly the recovery is like.

NewBeauty: What exactly is gynecomastia?

Dr. Franckle: Gynecomastia is a condition of enlarged breasts in men due to hormonal changes, obesity or use of certain drugs. The condition can occur in men of all ages but commonly develops during puberty.

NB: How can you tell if you are suffering from gynecomastia or if your enlarged male breasts are a result of being overweight?

Dr. Franckle: Gynecomastia is characterized by excess fat, skin or glandular tissue localized to the breast. An increase in the size of the male breasts, without a weight gain across the rest of the body, may indicate gynecomastia.

NB: What is the procedure like for male breast reduction?

Dr. Franckle: A male breast reduction can be performed under general or local anesthesia. Liposuction may be used when excess fatty tissue is the only concern. Several small incisions are created around the areola in which a cannula is inserted to loosen the excess fat, and the fat is then removed from the body by vacuum suction.

When a patient is also experiencing excess skin and/or glandular tissue, an excision technique is generally preferred. During this procedure excess breast tissue, fat and skin is removed by surgical excision. The remaining skin may be tightened with use of laser liposuction, if needed, to achieve the desired chest contour.

NB: What is the recovery process like?

Dr. Franckle: Recovery following a gynecomastia procedure is quite tolerable. A compression vest or chest wrapping is typically worn for 7-10 days after the procedure to help reduce swelling. Most patients may return to daily activities within several days after their procedure but intense exercise or heavy lifting is typically off-limits for about 2-3 weeks.

NB: Is the scar left by this procedure similar to one of a female breast reduction?

Dr. Franckle: Similar to a female breast reduction, the scars from male breast reduction are permanent but generally can be hidden within the contours of the breast. Depending on what technique was used in the procedure, the incision sites may be very small resulting in small scars that will fade overtime. Generally speaking, the scars left from a female breast reduction are more prominent than those from a male’s breast reduction.

NB: How common is this procedure?

Dr. Franckle: Gynecomastia as a condition is very common with roughly two-thirds of the male population experiencing a form of gynecomastia at some point in their lives. For some men, the condition corrects itself with age and development, but for others, medications or surgical procedures are required. Because gynecomastia is a very emotional condition for men, the procedure is quite common.

NB: Is gynecomastia genetic?

Dr. Franckle: Genetics can be a factor for some men. Certain genetic syndromes increase the amount of estrogen in a man’s body which can result in enlarged breasts (gynecomastia).

NB: Are there other ways to treat gynecomastia, rather than going under the knife?

Dr. Franckle: Medications have been used to treat minor cases of gynecomastia when excess fat is the main concern. When excess glandular tissue or excess skin develops, a surgical procedure is generally the only solution.

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