It is estimated that one in four men between the ages of 50 and 69 are affected by gynecomastia, which is a condition causing overdeveloped or enlarged male breasts. Having it can not only inhibit your ability to wear certain clothing, such as fitted t-shirts or golf shirts, but most men with gynecomastia feel some degree of body shame. This may keep you from participating in activities that you enjoy like going to the beach or working out at the gym.
The internet has helped patients realize that there are good treatment options for gynecomastia. You do not need to live with “man boobs” if you don’t want to. The information online, however, can also be confusing. A lot of sites tout the benefits of liposuction for treating gynecomastia, but liposuction alone only works for certain patients.
Gynecomastia, pseudogynecomastia or loose skin around areolar?
The first tip to prepare for gynecomastia surgery is to figure out which procedure is going to best address your individual needs. This always entails an in-person exam with a board-certified plastic surgeon. He or she will assess your anatomy to determine whether or not the fullness in your chest is due to:
- Too much breast tissue
- Excess fat
- Both breast tissue and fat
- Loose skin around the areolar
In many older men and massive weight loss patients, the fullness in the chest is the direct result of loose skin around the areolar. This can easily be corrected with an areolar reduction. For patients with excess fat only, which is referred to as pseudogynecomastia, a smooth, flat chest may be achieved with liposuction. However, most gynecomastia patients have excess fat and/or an overabundance of breast tissue. For them, a surgical excision of the tissue and fat removal is necessary. Men who have lost a lot of weight may also need some skin removed and the chest “lifted” in addition to gland removal and liposuction.
Choosing the right surgeon for gynecomastia surgery
While no man wants to hear that he needs surgery on his chest, the scars from gynecomastia are typically very well hidden. But it is paramount that you choose the right surgeon. You want someone who is:
- Board certified
- Has a lot of experience treating gynecomastia
- Understands the underlying causes of gynecomastia
The experience and training required to become board certified means that you are in the hands of an exemplary plastic surgeon. A board-certified plastic surgeon knows that there can be many causes for gynecomastia—including hormones, anabolic steroids, recreational drugs and prescription medications—and will order the proper tests. It would be awful to have surgery only to have the condition return because your hormones are out of whack.
Diet, exercise and gynecomastia
The third tip to prepare for gynecomastia surgery is to overhaul your diet and exercise regime. If your condition is the result of a supplement, prescription medication or recreational drug, you will need to stop before surgery. Furthermore, if your full chest is the result of too much fat, you can lose the excess weight by:
- Upping your intake of fruits and vegetables
- Limiting the amount of sugar in your diet
- Reducing the number of alcoholic beverages you consume
- Committing to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three times a week
- Doing resistance work with weights, bands or balls
This may resolve your issues with your chest without the need for surgery. And even if you are a surgical candidate, improving your diet and exercise regime will benefit your overall health. And the healthier your skin and tissues, the faster your body will heal and recover.
Recovery from gynecomastia surgery
It is important to have realistic expectations when it comes to your recovery. A satisfied patient is someone who loves his surgical outcome, yes, but who also knew what to expect after surgery. With both liposuction and gynecomastia surgery, you can expect to be bruised and swollen for at least two weeks. With surgery, you may also have drains for 24 to 48 hours. I have all of my gynecomastia patients wear a compression vest 24/7 for the first three weeks and then for 12 hours each day for the next two months. It really helps to reduce the swelling and sets the stage for a great result.
In terms of exercise, you will need to take it easy for the first week following surgery. You can return to light cardio in week 2 and heavier workouts by week three. However, you will want to avoid all upper body work for at least 4-6 weeks. No matter which procedure you have, your final results are going to take time, so be patient. Your chest contour may look irregular at first, but this should all resolve with time. Also, keep in mind that no man’s chest is completely flat with zero breast gland. You want to look like the best version of you, not an alien.
If you think you have gynecomastia, make an appointment with a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area to discuss treatment options. It can be life-changing.