Gynecomastia is the clinical term for “enlargement of the glandular tissue of the male breast greater than 0.5cm in diameter”. In some cases, the increased size of the chest area is due to excess fat in the chest area, but true gynecomastia is the presence of breast tissue and is located generally around the nipple. The breast, in a case of true gynecomastia will feel dense, or rubbery, while cases of pseudo-gynecomastia will more likely feel squishy or spongy.
Occasionally, one of the symptoms of gynecomastia will include slight pain or tenderness. This is not necessarily a cause for concern however, anytime you feel a “lump” in the axillary or chest region, or anywhere really, it is cause to check with your physician, just to be on the safe side. Most instances of gynecomastia are benign and cause no long lasting physical effects; however, gynecomastia that occurs after the normal course of puberty and adolescence should be investigated to rule our underlying medical issues.
Gynecomastia can be accurately diagnosed by a general physician during a routine office examination. The doctor will ask questions about the patient’s personal and family medical history and any medications he is currently taking or has recently been prescribed, including any non-prescribed drug use. If there are suspicions of underlying health conditions, the physician will then either order diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, liver, kidney, or thyroid function tests, or mammogram to rule out the suspected concerns
By far the most common symptoms for most males experiencing gynecomastia is the mental anguish associated with the changes in their physical appearance. While most grown men are able to cope reasonably well with the symptoms, during a young man’s formative years such feelings can be devastating. Social interactions that for some are already tenuous at best become further strained by their own feelings of inadequacy or dissimilarity to their peers.
For those experiencing the physical, mental, or emotional symptoms of gynecomastia, there is hope. Usually the symptoms are short lived. For gynecomastia related to puberty the “swelling” usually goes down within weeks or up to three years. A long time, perhaps, but an expected end time to their suffering can make conditions easier to deal with. For those experiencing symptoms due to an underlying medical condition, the breasts can be viewed as a blessing in that they were a warning. Sometimes, perspective can make all the difference.