SINGAPORE: Doctors have recently seen an uptick in men seeking treatment for gynaecomastia, as reported by TODAY.

Gynaecomastia, as defined on the Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) website, involves the enlargement of male breast tissue. It often presents as a rubbery or firm mass starting under the nipple and extending outward across the breast area. 

This condition is also colloquially referred to as “man boobs.” According to doctors, men, usually in their 20s to 30s, have visited their clinics more frequently to seek help for this condition. 

However, Dr Samuel Ho, a cosmetic plastic surgeon from Allure Plastic Surgery, notes that this doesn’t necessarily indicate that gynecomastia is prevalent in Singapore. He suggests that the rise in cases over the past five years is likely due to increased awareness.

In his interview with TODAY, Dr. Ivan Puah, medical director of Amaris B Clinic, also mentioned that, based on international studies, approximately 50–60% of men worldwide experience this condition. 

He explained that this condition typically affects adolescents, overweight men, ageing men, and individuals with underlying medical conditions.

Treatment options for Gynaecomastia

When addressing gynecomastia, doctors prioritize addressing its underlying cause. Excess weight, for instance, can elevate oestrogen levels in men, prompting the growth of the “breast” tissue.

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In such cases, doctors typically recommend lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a balanced diet as the first-line treatment.

However, if a man has low testosterone levels, testosterone replacement therapy may be considered. Or, if elevated oestrogen levels are identified as the primary issue, doctors may prescribe oral tamoxifen to counteract the hormone’s effects.

If, however, the diagnosis is true gynecomastia, Professor Lee Kok Onn, senior consultant at National University Hospital’s (NUH) Division of Endocrinology, says surgery might be the best option for the patient since weight loss and medications may not make much difference.

It must be noted, though, that if gynecomastia isn’t distressing the patient, isn’t connected to any medical issues, and isn’t leading to pain or discomfort, then Dr Mok Shao Feng, a consultant endocrinologist at NUH, says treatment is not required.

Case Study 1: Mr Benedict Leong

One patient recently came forward to share his story with TODAY. Mr. Benedict Leong, 30, recounted the painful remarks he received from his peers growing up.

He said that after physical education class, in which he and his classmates would take off their shirts, he would get teased a lot for his “breasts”.

“They go, ‘Ooh look, Ben has boobs. Ben has boobs. And I was like ‘What do you mean boobs? I don’t have boobs. I’m a guy, you know,” he told his peers.

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Over the years, Mr Leong tried everything from dieting and exercise to intermittent fasting to eliminate the extra fat in his chest area.

Despite successfully shedding weight and seeing improvements in his appearance, he found that the excess fat in his chest remained stubbornly persistent. 

This ongoing struggle took a toll on his mental well-being, leading to a noticeable decline in his self-esteem and confidence.

“I just never was happy in my skin,” he admitted, revealing the deep-seated impact gynecomastia had on his self-image and daily life.

However, a turning point came when he finally received a diagnosis of gynecomastia. This brought him relief and hope, knowing that there was a medical explanation for his condition. In February, he made the decision to undergo surgery.

“When I look at myself in the mirror, I feel great,” he said, “and I know that it won’t come back,” he added.

According to Mr Leong, his surgery cost $15,000. However, since this was a legitimate medical condition, his insurance completely covered the costs.

Case Study 2: Anonymous Singaporean on Reddit

On Reddit, a Singaporean also shared his journey with the online community. Like Mr Benedict Leong, he shared that having gynaecomastia hurt his mental health and eventually led to depression.

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He said, “Every shirt you wear can see those puffy sharp nipple which is very awkward so I end up slouching hard so it was not obvious.

I can’t go swimming with friends, I cant go shirtless. So there is a lot of ‘I can’t’ and there was no confidence at all.”

However, things finally started looking up for him after he underwent surgery. “Now I look down and it’s so weird to see the difference. I’m way confident now. No more slouched back,” he wrote.

When discussing the costs, the Singaporean explained that each pre-surgery appointment ranged from $25 to $40, with the blood test being the most expensive at $100.

He recalled that the total cost for all pre-surgery checkups amounted to around $200.

For the main surgery, he stated that the total cost was $6,924. However, after all the deductions from the government subsidy, his mother’s CPF, and his own insurance, he only paid $39.

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Featured image by Depositphotos