Gynecomastia Groans: Stigma and Emotional Stress of Male Breasts

by Barb Tate

Gynecomastia Groans: Stigma and Emotional Stress of Male Breasts

While women are seen as the usual victims of self-deprecating hyper-body awareness, modern man has more than his fair share of lofty body image ideals he must contend with. The standards for male attractiveness, or 'sex appeal', can be considered just as excessive and high reaching as the standards for women. With male celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and David Beckham exhibiting super-toned physiques in countless magazine spreads and exposing film roles, man's self-awareness has increased dramatically. Requests for procedures like rhinoplasty and liposuction have greatly increased in recent years. Men are looking in the mirror more. And when they see breasts, it’s not only a highly emasculating feeling, but it can also lead to dangerous mental and physical conditions.


Gynecomastia is the abnormal growth of large mammary glands in men. This increase results in what is commonly referred to as ‘man boobs’. This ailment is considered a malignant and abnormal condition associated with hormonal imbalance and various metabolic disorders. It can also be indicative of much more serious underlying conditions like testicular cancer, tumors, kidney failure, liver failure (cirrhosis), and hyperthyroidism. The ‘swollen nipples’ effect that defines gynecomastia is, for the most part, very difficult to reduce. While dieting and exercise can decrease the fat around the breast, the area itself is made up of highly resistant and sensitive glandular tissue. Male breast reduction surgery is typically required.


Other than the physical ramifications of gynecomastia, it also carries a very heavy emotional burden for afflicted men. There is a potent stigma attached to this disorder, and it is widespread throughout the world. Many people consider these growths to be caused from inactiveness, laziness, and poor living habits. While these things can enhance the adverse appearance, most cases are indeed hormonal issues and treatable with hormonal balance therapy/medication and plastic surgery. The emotional impact is undeniable: bullying often results. This antagonism can become a serious problem- especially in adolescence where self-esteem and social anxiety is very fragile.


This condition affects millions of men in the United States. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) indicates that the number of men suffering from gynecomastia is anywhere from 40% to 60% of the male population (in varying degrees). Most men do not consider it a condition that needs to be tended to- and those that do try to remove it assume that they can merely ‘work the weight off’. As the pounds drop and the boobs don’t, they will quickly realize that removing this ailment can be quite tricky. Additionally, along with the other accompanying deceases, male breast cancer can stem from gynecomastia and hormone receptor positive disease. Every year, more than 1600 men are diagnosed. An estimate of 500 men will die from male breast cancer complications.


As more men begin to learn that they can’t easily rid themselves of these ‘man boobs’ , they are turning to liposuction for removal of excess fat buildup and surgical extraction for glandular swelling. Gynecomastia surgery typically takes about 1-2 hours to perform and is considered an outpatient procedure. The surgeon will remove the glandular tissue and excess skin, resulting in a chest that is more contoured, flatter, and firmer. Additional liposuction may be required for excess fat deposit removal.

Gynecomastia is a condition that doesn’t quite get the understanding and attention that it deserves. Resulting diseases are potentially devastating and the emotional toll it takes on men is largely understated. Male attractiveness standards are further drowning these afflicted men in depression and self-loathing. If you or someone you know is suffering from this ailment and can’t quite seem to make it over the hump, surgery may be their only option. Contact the Plastic Surgery Portal to schedule a consultation with a doctor or search for a professional in your area. Treat any physical disorder with great care. You never know what they can eventually become!

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