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Understanding Men’s Breast Conditions

22 Nov 2023

As Movember encourages open conversations about men's health, it's vital to spotlight two lesser spoken about, unrelated conditions affecting men: Gynaecomastia and Male Breast Cancer. We spoke to Mr Debashis Ghosh, Consultant Breast and Oncoplastic Surgeon at The London Clinic about these conditions. 

What is Gynaecomastia?

Gynaecomastia, clinically defined as the enlargement of male breast tissue, is more common than you may think; affecting an estimated 30% of men, it’s the most common breast condition in males.

While usually benign, the condition can be a source of both physical and emotional discomfort, with the list of symptoms including tenderness, sensitivity, and swelling around the nipples. Awareness of these physical signs is crucial as gynaecomastia can surface at any age, severely impacting self-esteem and overall well-being, and in some cases causing a fear of breast cancer.

This development of breast tissue is generally caused by hormonal imbalances (namely lower testosterone levels), underlying health conditions, and taking certain medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, or medications for prostate cancer. In addition, lifestyle factors, such as excessive alcohol consumption or drug use, can also play a role.

What are the treatment options for gynaecomastia?

Mr Debashis Ghosh, consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon at The London Clinic says, “We take a personalised approach to address gynaecomastia. We offer a full diagnostic service to check for any underlying problems that may be causing it. If an underlying cause either cannot be identified or cannot be treated, and other treatments have not worked, male breast reduction surgery or liposuction may be an option.

Other treatment options may include hormonal therapy and lifestyle modifications, as advised by specialist doctors.

If you’re unsure if you have the condition, it’s best to seek appropriate medical advice from a GP in the first instance.

To learn more about gynaecomastia, read this interview which Mr Debashis Ghosh had on the topic, with GQ magazine.

Male patient with doctor in consultation

Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is overwhelmingly consider a female condition but men can and do develop breast cancer. According to Cancer Research UK there are around 370 men diagnosed each year in the UK, compared to 55,500 cases in women .

Men are far less likely to examine their own chest, so discovery of breast cancer in men usually stems from seeing physical changes. Symptoms include lumps, changes in breast size or shape, nipple discharge, eczema of the nipple and other skin changes around the nipple or breast.

Movember is a great reminder for men to be proactive in understanding their risk factors and seeking medical attention when needed. Typically, this disease affects men age 35 and over, those with a family medical history of cancer (especially of genetic mutations such as BRCA2, the gene which causes breast cancer in women too), those who have experienced radiation exposure, hormonal imbalances, and liver disease.

“There are three main groups more prone to developing male breast cancer, Afro-Caribbean men, men with Jewish heritage and those with BRCA gene defects,” says Mr Debashis Ghosh.

Treatment for male breast cancer is exactly the same as for females, however diagnosis is generally done using an ultrasound screening or breast biopsy, rather than a mammogram. This also helps to differentiate between other conditions which can mimic breast cancer in a male, such as a lipoma or infected sebaceous cyst.

At The London Clinic, a multidisciplinary approach is used to treat male breast cancer. Surgical options, including mastectomy and lymph node removal may be recommended, alongside radiation therapy and treatments like chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Consultant Mr Debashis Ghosh
Mr Debashis Ghosh

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