American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Member Log In For Medical Professionals
 

Gynecomastia: Not just a cosmetic issue


When most people hear about procedures to remove excess breast fat, tissue and skin, they associate it with women. But gynecomastia is enlargement of the male breast tissue, and male breast reduction procedures were up 5% in 2012. Gynecomastia commonly occurs in boys during puberty, with up to 69% of adolescents affected by the condition at some point in their lifetime. Gynecomastia can even persist into adulthood. Surgery to correct this condition is usually recommended for these patients.

Although treatment guidelines for gynecomastia are widely practiced, the psychological impact of gynecomastia on adolescent boys has remained largely unknown. Until now. In a new study released today, boys with gynecomastia were compared to healthy, unaffected peers of the same age and gender with respect to physical, social and emotional well-being. The adolescents with gynecomastia were found to have significantly lower measures of mental health, self-esteem and social functioning. Boys with gynecomastia also had higher rates of disordered eating thoughts and behaviors than their peers.

The severity of the gynecomastia or the patient's body mass index (BMI) did not affect the degree of impact. Merely having the breast disorder was enough to show these physical, emotional and social deficits. Even the mildest gynecomastia can negatively affect the psychosocial well-being of a young man. The physical health of males with gynecomastia was considerably worse than that of the healthy boys, but was attributed to the higher rate of obesity rather than the disorder.

These findings suggest that gynecomastia is more than just a cosmetic issue. Adolescents with the condition may suffer psychologically as a result of their breast condition. Prior studies have found higher rates of depression, anxiety and embarrassment in boys with larger chests. Parents and patients should be aware of the psychosocial issues associated with gynecomastia, and consider early evaluation for adolescents suffering from this condition, regardless of severity. Early surgical treatment may also be necessary to improve these adverse emotional and social effects.

Despite this evident lower quality of life, the cost of surgical correction for adolescent gynecomastia is usually not covered by most insurance plans. In my practice, only 35% of surgeries for gynecomastia were reimbursed by insurance companies, compared to the overwhelming 85% of breast reductions for adolescent girls. Providers, patients, parents and third-party payors need to recognize the detrimental effects of gynecomastia. Although the physical condition is benign, the negative psychosocial effects of gynecomastia can no longer be denied. Gynecomastia is not just a cosmetic issue.

Logo

Surgeons In Your Area

Roberta Gartside Headshot

Roberta Gartside MD

1300 Chain Bridge Road The Magassey Building
McLean, VA 22101

(703) 204-2706

Michael Brown Headshot

Michael Brown MD

45155 Research Place Suite 125
Ashburn, VA 20147

(703) 726-1175

James French Headshot

James French MD

5550 Friendship Blvd Suite 130 Center for Plastic...
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

(301) 652-7700

Mark Venturi Headshot

Mark Venturi MD

7601 Lewinsville Road Suite 400
McLean, VA 22102

(703) 287-8277

Linda Mosely Headshot

Linda Mosely MD

1860 Town Center Drive Suite 310
Reston, VA 20190

(703) 481-1811

Wendy Gottlieb Headshot

Wendy Gottlieb MD

1800 Town Center Drive Suite 418
Reston, VA 20190

(703) 668-9499

Ali Mesbahi Headshot

Ali Mesbahi MD

7601 Lewinsville Road Suite 400
McLean, VA 22102

(703) 287-8277

Erica Anderson Headshot

Erica Anderson MD

297 Herndon Parkway Suite 101
Herndon, VA 20170

(703) 481-0002

Logo

Patient Care Center