Gynaecomastia is a condition in which firm breast tissues develop in males. The breast tissue is usually less than 1-1/2 inches across and is located directly under the nipple. Gynaecomastia may be present on one side or on both sides. This condition may make the breast tender. Some men and boys have fat on their chests that makes it look like they have breasts. This condition is called pseudogynaecomastia (false gynaecomastia). It is not the same thing as gynaecomastia.
What causes gynaecomastia?
Gynaecomastia is usually caused by changes in hormones at puberty or as part of ageing. Gynaecomastia may be caused by changes in the balance of two hormones, oestrogen and testosterone. In rare cases, gynaecomastia is caused by prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, illegal drugs, tumours or disease. Gynaecomastia is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying condition or problem. It occurs as a result of an increase in the ratio of oestrogens (female hormone) to androgens (male hormone) in men.
How is gynaecomastia diagnosed?
The doctor will ask questions about the symptoms, such as how long the patient has had the breast tissue, and whether or not the area is tender. The doctor will also ask about the illnesses the person has had in the past, the medicines taken, and other matters relating to health. Then there is a physical examination. Whether one needs tests depends on the age, medical history and physical examination. If one is a teenager, tests are not needed, since gynaecomastia is common in teenage boys.
What is the treatment?
In most cases, no treatment is needed. The doctor checks the size of the breast tissue every few months. In 90% of teenage boys, gynaecomastia goes away in less than 3 years. Sometimes the problem can be solved if one stops taking a medicine or an illegal drug that is causing gynaecomastia. Occasionally, medicines may be used to treat gynaecomastia, especially if tenderness is a problem. The medicine will make the extra breast tissue go away. Rarely, surgery may be necessary to remove the extra breast tissue. Treatment is necessary if gynaecomastia is caused by a disease or a tumour. If it is due to a disease, the disease itself will need to be treated.
Could it be cancer?
Breast cancer is very rare in males. The doctor will be able to tell whether the lump is cancer. Breast cancer feels different than the breast tissue of gynaecomastia.