Gynecomastia (man boobs) vs chest fat: Experts on how to tell the difference | Health

Gynecomastia, often colloquially referred to as “man boobs, is a topic that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves despite being a concern for many. More so, because most people hesitate to talk about it thus, the problem goes unaddressed, despite the fact that it has very effective solutions available today with highly reputed and experienced plastic surgeons.

Gynecomastia (man boobs) vs chest fat: Experts on how to tell the difference (Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Pexels)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rajat Gupta, Plastic Surgeon and Founder of RG Aesthetics, shared, “One of the major reasons that the problem is often unaddressed is that Gynecomastia is mistaken for chest fat. People suffering from heaviness in the chest area take it as fat accumulation and start working out or dieting to reduce the size and bulkiness of their chest. Which is not correct. Simply because if it is Gynecomastia, workout and diet will not help. It is essential to differentiate Gynecomastia from chest fat, which is entirely different in nature.”

He revealed, “Gynecomastia is characterised by the enlargement of glandular tissue in the male breast, and tissue will not respond to exercising and diet. Gynecomastia can happen at any stage of life but is most common during puberty, middle age, and in older men. The key feature of gynecomastia is the presence of a firm, rubbery mass beneath the nipple area, often involving both breasts. This tissue growth usually results from hormonal imbalances during puberty or can be the side effect of some underlying medical condition.”

Understand and Identify Chest Fat

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Priya Bansal, Plastic Surgeon at Skinnovation Clinics in New-Delhi, said, “Chest fat is a buildup of adipose tissue (fat) in the chest area. It can occur due to various factors such as weight gain, a sedentary lifestyle, or genetics. Chest fat tends to feel softer and more uniformly distributed across the chest, unlike gynecomastia’s rubbery, slightly hard-to-touch lumpiness beneath the nipple.”

How do we differentiate between the two for clear distinction?

As per Dr. Bansal, there are a few effective ways men with bulkiness in the chest area can use to distinguish between gynecomastia and chest fat –

  1. Physical Examination: Always conduct a thorough physical examination to identify the presence of glandular tissue associated with gynecomastia. You can examine yourself with a few simple steps or consult a plastic surgeon. A proper diagnosis is the first step toward addressing the issue effectively.
  • Stand in front of a well-lit mirror.
  • Lift your arms and closely observe both breasts.
  • Use your two fingers (index and middle) to gently press around the breast area.
  • Feel for any unusual lumps, firmness, or changes in breast tissue.
  • Pay special attention to your nipples and areolas, noting any irregularities.
  • Fat deposits would feel softer and more flowy, shifting with the finger’s movements.
  • The Gynecomastia lump feels rubbery and stiff under the areola, usually disc-shaped.

If you discover any abnormalities or have concerns, consult a plastic surgeon for a thorough examination and guidance.

2. Hormonal Evaluation: Gynecomastia is often linked to hormonal imbalances. Blood tests can help determine if hormone levels contribute to breast tissue growth.

3. Imaging Studies: In some cases, imaging studies like mammograms or ultrasounds may be necessary to visualize the extent of glandular tissue growth in gynecomastia.

4. Response to Weight Loss: Chest fat tends to diminish with overall weight loss, while gynecomastia may persist even after rigorous weight reduction efforts.

The Importance of Timely Identification

Dr Gupta concluded, “Whether you suspect gynecomastia or are dealing with chest fat concerns, a timely consultation with an experienced plastic surgeon is crucial. This would help to get the right intervention at the right time, facilitating a timely treatment if it is Gynecomastia. Just remember that getting rid of chest fat and gynecomastia requires different approaches. To tackle chest fat, maintain a balanced diet, and engage in regular cardiovascular exercises and strength training. However, gynecomastia often needs surgical intervention by a qualified plastic surgeon who can remove excess glandular tissue and contour the chest for a more masculine appearance. Avoid misconceptions and take the first step toward your mental and physical well-being today.”

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