Anyone who’s gone through it and anyone who’s currently experiencing it know: adolescence is tough. The hormones rage, causing mood swings. Weird things happen to the body, from hair growing in new places to vocal changes. Some teens experience growth spurts early on and suddenly find themselves heads taller than their peers. Others are late bloomers and develop slower than their friends and classmates.
Gynecomastia is one of the changes that can occur during puberty or adolescence. Of all the changes that can happen to the body, it’s admittedly one of the more embarrassing. Gynecomastia is the development of breast tissue in males. It’s more likely to occur at three stages of life: infancy, old age, and adolescence. Whether you’re a teenager dealing with it now or a parent of a teenager who’s dealing with it, here’s what you need to know.
It’s Super Common
Although gynecomastia can make you want to wear your largest, most oversized T-shirt or stay home from school, and although it can seem like you’re the only kid in your class who’s dealing with it, the reality is that it’s pretty common. Up to seven out of 10 teenage boys are likely to develop gynecomastia at some point during puberty.
Gynecomastia is most common in boys between the ages of 12 and 14, although it can occur at any stage of puberty. It develops when the levels of testosterone and estrogen in a teenage boy’s body become imbalanced. Higher than usual levels of estrogen contribute to the growth of breast tissue.
Some factors can make gynecomastia more likely to occur. For example, male teenagers who are obese or overweight are more likely to develop enlarged breasts. If a boy’s father or other close relative experiences gynecomastia, that can increase his chances of also having the condition.
It Might Go Away on its Own
While it might not seem like it, the odds are very likely that teenage gynecomastia will resolve on its own, eventually. The breast tissue will shrink as levels of estrogen decrease and testosterone levels stabilize.
Although some boys get their hormone levels tested to determine the cause of gynecomastia, for the most part, testing isn’t required. In addition to taking a “wait and see” approach, some teenage boys see an improvement in breast size after losing weight.
Surgery Can Help
Although it is possible and likely that gynecomastia is something you’ll outgrow, it can be challenging to live with, especially if the other kids at your school bully you about it.
If enlarged breasts are making it difficult for you to live your life in peace, help is available. In some cases, gynecomastia surgery can be useful. Also known as male breast reduction, gynecomastia surgery can make the breasts less prominent.
During the procedure, a surgeon will remove the excess breast tissue as well as any fatty deposits that might be contributing to the enlargement. Depending on the size of the enlargement, the surgeon might also cut away excess skin from the area. The goal is to create a flat, masculine chest.
Male breast reduction surgery isn’t something to decide on quickly or a snap decision to make. Since it is surgery, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before going forward. There are potential risks to any type of surgical procedure, such as scarring or complications.
When to schedule the surgery is another thing to consider. The procedure itself will take a few hours. Afterward, you’ll need about a week or two for the initial recovery. During that time, you’ll want to stay home from work and school. Extracurricular activities, particularly sports and exercise, should be off the table for up to six weeks after surgery.
For that reason, it might make sense to schedule surgery over summer vacation or during a holiday break. If you are an athlete, try to choose a time for surgery that won’t interfere with your training or game schedule.
Other Coping Options
Whether you ultimately decide to have surgery or not, living with gynecomastia can be challenging, especially as a teenager. Fortunately, there are several ways to cope with the condition as you wait for the breasts to shrink or wait to have surgery.
If other kids at your school are bullying you, it can be helpful to talk to a counselor or therapist about your concerns. You might also try to raise awareness about the effects of bullying at your school, to help prevent it from happening to others.
Although it might seem like your problem will stick around forever, it can be helpful to remind yourself that is most likely only temporary. Knowing that there’s light at the end of the tunnel can help you get through.
If you’re a teenager or the parent of a teenager who’s dealing with gynecomastia right now, it can be helpful to speak with a plastic surgeon and learn more about your options. Dr. Paul Vitenas is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Houston who specializes in breast surgery, including male breast reduction. Call 281-484-0088 to schedule an appointment or book a virtual consultation today.