Enlarged Breasts

A sensitive subject for boys

photograph © Timshan | Dreamstime.com

We’ve all heard snarky jokes about “man boobs,” but if your child suffers from gynecomastia (yes, it is a medical condition), it’s hardly a laughing matter.

Persistent breast enlargement, known as gynecomastia, negatively affects self-esteem and other areas of emotional health in adolescent boys, according to a recent report in the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Even mild gynecomastia can have significant adverse psychological effects, according to the study, conducted at Boston Children’s Hospital. The negative psychological effects impacts all boys, regardless of the severity of their condition.   

“Merely having gynecomastia was sufficient to cause significant deficits in general health, social functioning, mental health, self-esteem, and eating behaviors and attitudes,” writes study author Dr. Brian Labow.

Gynecomastia is benign enlargement of male glandular tissue that is very common in adolescent boys. Although breast enlargement usually resolves over time, the problem persists in about 8 percent of boys.

Typically, boys who are overweight or obese may simply be advised to lose weight. However, losing weight won’t correct the problem in children who have true glandular enlargement, or for those with a large amount of excess skin in the breast area.

“As a result, early intervention and treatment for gynecomastia may be necessary to improve the negative physical and emotional symptoms,” writes Labow. The study notes that male breast reduction, performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, is typically a simple and safe procedure.

Parents should pay attention to how their sons feel about their bodies. There’s a lot more than vanity at stake — it’s definitely a quality of life and mental health issue. “Our results indicate that careful and regular evaluation for gynecomastia may benefit adolescents,” Dr. Labow and his colleagues conclude.

As for teasing comments and jokes about the matter? Ban those from your family. The damage of even light-hearted remarks is greater than you think.


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