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Gynecomastia vs. Chest Fat: Which Do I Have?

November 16, 2023

If you have enlarged breasts, you might be wondering whether it is the result of fat or a symptom of overgrowth of breast tissue (gynecomastia). We will discuss some of the key differences between gynecomastia (excess breast tissue)  and chest fat so that you can determine if you are ready to schedule a consultation with gynecomastia expert  Dr. Cruise.

What is Gynecomastia? 

Gynecomastia is a medical term for enlarged male breasts which when left untreated often causes physical and emotional damage to affected men. Although excess fat may contribute to enlarged breasts, the condition is mainly characterized by excess glandular tissue (breast tissue). Symptoms may include swollen or lumpy breasts, puffy nipples, breast sagging, and tenderness in the breasts. 

5 Questions to Determine Whether You Have Gynecomastia 

In truth, gynecomastia exists if you feel you have a problem with your chest. The condition ranges from very mild to extreme. In some “very mild” cases the enlargement is so insignificant the plastic surgeon may decline to move forward with surgery due to  weighing the pros and cons and not seeing enough “upside.” The questions need to be presented to the patient: Is it worth the expense, time off work,  making incisions, and inherent risks of surgery? 

A consultation is necessary to be evaluated by an expert who can diagnosis the type of gynecomastia you have, the surgical plan, and more. Being armed with as much information as possible will help you as you weigh your options. 

1. What is Your Age?

Gynecomastia most often affects adolescent men between the ages of 13-15 (or slightly younger) who are going through puberty. Oftentimes, adolescent gynecomastia will go away over time, once hormonal levels are balanced. Middle-aged men may experience what seems like a sudden onset of gynecomastia due to changes in hormones as part of the natural aging process. 

2. Do You Have Excess Fat in Other Areas? 

If you have excess body fat distributed across the body, your enlarged breasts might not be gynecomastia. Excess fat can develop anywhere in overweight or obese men, including the chest. The term pseudogynecomastia is sometimes used to describe enlarged male breasts caused solely by excess fat. Losing weight and working out the chest area is not a guarantee the chest will improve to the point of satisfaction. Surgery may still be something to consider if this is the case.

3. Do You Have a Medical Condition? 

Thyroid disorder causes hormonal fluctuations that lead to decreased testosterone levels and an increase in estrogen. Increased estrogen (the “female hormone”) can cause increased development of breast tissue, leading to enlarged breasts. Other medical conditions like testicular cancer, kidney disease, and kidney or liver failure have also been attributed to abnormal breast tissue growth. If you have any of these conditions and notice breast enlargement, you might have gynecomastia.

4. What is Your Diet and Exercise Routine Like? 

A balanced diet of proteins, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains is essential to maintain a healthy weight. Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise will also help prevent weight gain and keep your body lean and toned. Chest exercises will tone the pectoral muscles to create a sculpted, toned chest – a desired characteristic for many men. If you have enlarged breasts that don’t improve with diet and exercise, it could be a sign that you have gynecomastia rather than excess fat.

5. Do You Use Substances or Frequently Drink Alcohol?

Some bodybuilders use anabolic steroids, which can result in gynecomastia. Steroids cause hormonal fluctuations and can decrease testosterone production, causing breast tissue growth. Other substances like marijuana, opioids, amphetamines, and alcohol are also linked to gynecomastia.

How is Gynecomastia vs. Chest Fat Treated?

Enlarged breasts caused by chest fat can often be improved with exercise and a healthy diet. However, if symptoms do not improve, there are two main surgical options:

Fat Removal 

Liposuction is a minimally invasive surgery that can remove stubborn fat from many areas of the body, including the chest. Depending on the cause of your enlarged breasts, liposuction can be performed alone or in combination with gynecomastia surgery. Liposuction combined with surgical removal of glandular tissue can further define the chest and create an aesthetically pleasing result.

Surgical Excision

Surgical excision is the main component of gynecomastia surgery (male breast reduction). Dr. Cruise will carefully remove the excess breast tissue and sculpt the remaining tissues to create a natural-looking breast with more definition. Excess or sagging skin will also be removed to tighten and smooth the chest area.

Schedule a Consultation

Dr. Cruise is a board-certified plastic surgeon who has been specializing in gynecomastia for twenty years. If you think you have gynecomastia and want to know more about your treatment options, schedule a consultation today at our office in Newport Beach, CA.

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