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Common myths about gynecomastia or ‘man boobs’

November 16, 2022
February 1, 2024

People suffering from gynecomastia trawl the internet to understand it, only to find half-baked fiction and ‘cures’. We asked Dr Ivan Puah for some truth.

Table of Contents

Heads up, gents: After reading this, you may want to check your chest area. 

While it may be every woman's dream to inherit a set of well-sculpted breasts, it is a man's nightmare to find a pair of "man boobs" hanging from his chest. For most men, gynecomastia robs their self-esteem and becomes a stumbling block in achieving a masculine physique. But it's more than just the embarrassment of having a flabby chest that makes it a cause for concern. If you're suffering from the dreaded "man boobs", it could reflect a medical condition more severe than you think. 

Gynecomastia isn't merely an aesthetic issue that is a deterrent to that firm and chiselled body that every man dreams of. It is a medical condition that should be looked at seriously. Yet, little light has been shed on the medical facts behind gynecomastia.

Known by its medical name, gynecomastia, it is characterised by the enlargement of the male breasts. This medical condition has its fair share of stigma. Gyno may seem like a joke to many. However, for the 3 in 10 men who suffer from this condition, the term man boobs hit too close to home. It affects almost 70% of adolescent boys and 65% of middle-aged and older men.

There's just as much fact as fiction circulating on the internet…

Just what are the causes behind gynecomastia?

How can we rid ourselves of this dreadful condition? Is gynecomastia a curable condition? 

The truth versus the myth. Today, we tell it all. Here's a breakdown of some myths you might have read online about gynecomastia.

Common Myths About Gynecomastia Or 'Man Boobs'

Myth #01: Gynecomastia is not treatable

Many men think gynecomastia is not treatable since it does not respond to dietary changes or exercise. Some are not aware that gynecomastia surgery can effectively treat this condition. As such, many men who suffer from gynecomastia live with the condition in silence and have their self-confidence plummet.

Gynecomastia is a condition that YOU CAN CHOOSE not to live with; it is treatable. When done by skilled and experienced doctors, gynecomastia surgery produces good results.

Myth #02: Your beer habit is why you've got man boobs

Chronic alcohol abuse, whether it's beer, gin or whatever types of alcohol, may lead to liver issues, which may, in turn, lead to the development of gynecomastia.

Myth #03: Chest workouts are the solution to fix gynecomastia

Many assume that increasing workout intensity or doing chest presses can eliminate manboobs. Unfortunately, it can't. Enlarged glandular tissues do not respond to exercise. Gynecomastia is the enlargement of the male breast tissue. It is mainly caused by hormonal imbalance, and the factors that can cause the imbalance include anabolic steroid abuse, genetics, medical conditions, diseases, and prescription medication.

Myth #04: Gynecomastia is caused by obesity, not male menopause

Contrary to popular misconception, being overweight is not the only cause of gynecomastia. It may be caused by hereditary and ageing as some men experience physical changes as they age, which can be caused by male menopause or andropause.

The trouble is that too few men understand the condition: according to a survey reported in the South China Morning Post, almost 80% of 500 men over 40 had heard about andropause yet failed on average to answer questions on its treatment and symptoms. Its link to man boobs? Testosterone production drops during andropause, and the hormonal imbalance could lead to the development of gynecomastia.

Myth #05: Any doctor can perform a gynecomastia surgery

Nope, not every doctor can treat your man boobs. Like every medical speciality, it requires a doctor skilled in gynecomastia surgery and one who can give you the best advice from years of experience. You might also have your vision of what your chest should look like, and you must research which doctor can help you achieve that.

At Amaris B. Clinic, Dr Puah will review your medical history and perform a comprehensive physical examination, including the gynecomastia pinch test. The pinch test will determine if you suffer from true gynecomastia, mixed gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia. Dr Puah will then propose a suitable surgical approach for your unique gynecomastia condition, considering the mass of your glands, presence of fat, skin laxity, and degree of droopiness.

Myth #06: Gynecomastia is just fat build-up 

True gynecomastia results from proliferating or growing 'additional' breast tissue, not fat. Losing weight through dieting or workouts will not help eliminate the excess tissue. Often confused with true gynecomastia or mixed gynecomastia is pseudogynecomastia (fake man boobs). 

Pseudogynecomastia occurs due to fat build-up in the breast caused by being overweight, but this condition is rarer than gynecomastia. 

Modern liposuction with MDC-Sculpt lipo technique, can treat pseudogynecomastia effectively. According to statistics and data collected by Amaris B. Clinic over the years, most men suffer from mixed gynecomastia of both fat and glandular tissues.

Myth #07: Hormone imbalance is the primary cause

While gynecomastia is caused by hormonal imbalances – a decrease in testosterone levels and an increase in oestrogen levels – several other factors can also play a part. These include prescription drugs, alcohol abuse, age, genetics, abuse of anabolic steroids, a significant loss in body weight, and medical conditions such as testicular failure or pituitary gland disorder.

Myth #08: Diet and exercise will reduce man boobs 

Exercise may help to bulk up the pectoralis or enhance its definition, but it will not cure gynecomastia. What it does instead is to push it forward and make man boobs more pronounced.

Myth #09: Pills, low energy laser and fat freezing can help

Sadly, there is a lot of false advertising for 'reducing' gynecomastia; oral pills and non-invasive treatments are all over the internet. Despite what's being purported, there is no scientific evidence to prove that topical creams, fat-freezing treatments or any other non-surgical modalities, such as massage, can treat this medical condition effectively and permanently.

Medications for weight reduction may reduce overall body fat content, but they do nothing for the glandular component of gynecomastia. Non-invasive treatments such as fat freezing or low-energy laser may reduce chest fat to a certain extent, but they won't reduce the glandular tissue.  

Misinformation and false advertising on the internet could derail how people experience the condition and identify the correct treatment for it. Gynecomastia surgery is the only permanent solution to restore the male chest to normal and bring enormous physical and psychological relief to patients. 

Myth #10: Gynecomastia is caused by excess chest fat

It is valid to a certain extent that excess fat can make a man's breasts more significant. However, fat alone isn't the cause of the condition. In fact, excess chest fat results in pseudogynecomastia.

Gynecomastia is more than just a result of developing excess chest fat. It is the enlargement of male breast tissues. In cases involving glandular tissues, it is known as True gynecomastia. In Mixed gynecomastia, there will be a proliferation of glandular tissues and excess fat.

Myth #11: Man boobs will come back again after gynecomastia surgery

Many are afraid that the gynecomastia condition will come back to haunt them again after their surgery and are thus unwilling to fix the condition with surgery. However, that cannot be further from the truth.

Once a gynecomastia surgery is performed, the enlarged breasts will be taken care of permanently.

Although rare, 10% of patients who have had surgery may experience a recurrence of gynecomastia. Ageing, hormonal changes, alcohol, opioids, anabolic steroids, and certain medications and drugs are usually associated with the onset of gynecomastia. In most cases, gynecomastia WILL NOT return after the affected tissues are removed.

Myth #12 – Gynecomastia surgery cost in Singapore depends on the severity of the condition

This is not a myth. Gynecomastia surgery cost in Singapore varies based on the doctor's skills, gynecomastia grades and case complexity. While prices are one of the variables you need to consider, the doctor's experience, the variety of gynecomastia cases he has treated, and your comfort level with the doctor and his team are just as necessary as the final costs of the surgery.

Myth #13 – Insurance in Singapore does not cover for gynecomastia surgery

When it comes to insurance coverage for cosmetic surgery, every plan from different insurance companies differs. While gynecomastia is a medical condition and opting for surgery is medically necessary, usually, the insurance companies need submitters to provide evidence that:

  • Malignancy is suspected by the doctor
  • Enlarged male breast tissue was identified during the physical examination that was carried out by an accredited gynecomastia doctor for the sole purpose of diagnosing the medical condition
  • The patient has been experiencing gynecomastia symptoms for at least a year
  • The pain experienced was persistent and caused by gyno 
  • External cause of gyno such as medications has been discontinued, and the condition does not regress even after doing so for at least 6 months
  • The physiological cause of gyno has been tested, and treatment sought, but gyno still persists after 6 months 

To know if your condition is claimable by insurance, it is best to check with your insurers.

Considerations for Gynecomastia Surgery Singapore

Trained in gynecomastia surgery, Dr Ivan Puah recognises that each patient is unique and requires a customised approach to achieve the desired outcome. 

"A good body sculpting doctor will treat the body like a work of art," Dr Puah shares. "The procedure is, in fact, 30% medicine and 70% art. After I remove the excess glandular and fatty tissues, the most important job is to sculpt the chest into its natural masculine form."

While you can expect some bruising and swelling in the chest area post-surgery, these can be managed well with compression. Downtime and pain are minimal with Dr Puah's proprietary gynecomastia surgical approach; most patients describe it as being like post-workout soreness.  

Under Dr Puah's team, the procedure will be carried out in an MOH-accredited operating theatre. An anaesthesiologist takes care of the patient during the surgery to ensure he is comfortable, relaxed and safe. Postoperative care is provided by a comprehensive post-surgical care team.

There is no need to carry the burden of man boobs by yourself. Gynecomastia is more common than you imagine. You are not alone, and the great news is it is treatable. Do not delay seeking help from the right medical professional. 

Reference

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