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Teen Gynecomastia Surgery: Wait Until 18?

adolescent gynecomastia

We’ve often heard it said that adolescent boys with overdeveloped breasts should wait until at least age 18 to have male breast reduction surgery. And so have many of our New York teen gynecomastia patients. So, do we subscribe to that theory?

Not really. We understand why some primary care doctors and even plastic surgeons give this advice. Generally, many professionals believe that a young man should be past puberty to ensure breast changes are complete. But when we meet a teen suffering from man boobs, we feel that his chronological age is not high on the list of key factors. Other considerations are more important.

Development Timing

After more than thirty years of treating men and teens with gynecomastia in New York, we have found that stability of their condition is the key factor in whether surgery is appropriate. No matter what the patient’s age may be, if gynecomastia has been present consistently for two years or more, it’s a safe bet it will not go away on its own.

These days, most boys begin puberty between ages 11 and 14. Puberty is when hormone levels fluctuate, and when young men can sprout a pair of moobs. For many, this is temporary; for others, breast enlargement persists. Just think, for a boy who enters puberty fairly young, waiting for male breast reduction surgery until age 18 can mean suffering for five, six or even seven years!

Psychological Impact

As everyone knows, adolescence is very often a difficult time for young people, even for those who appear “normal.” Physical changes that are seen to be outside the norm can prompt teasing and bullying by others. Some youngsters even report that they’ve been grabbed or pinched by their peers and/or humiliated very publicly.

What’s the response of a typical teen boy? Most will at least try to disguise their moobs by wearing layers of clothing, even in hot weather, and refraining from activities that might draw attention to their condition such as swimming. Others retreat even further from social activities, and occasionally a boy will gain weight on purpose to try to hide his breasts. You can read about a recent study of the effects of gynecomastia on adolescents here.

During this formative time when self-esteem is at stake, we don’t see the wisdom in waiting to operate on a case of stable gynecomastia. In fact, our teen gynecomastia patients confirm over and over that surgery literally changes their lives.

Considerations and Risks

We take the responsibility to get to know each patient very seriously, and that includes teens. When it comes to a young person, we need to be doubly sure he can handle the procedure and the changes it will bring. We evaluate possible complicating factors, such as obesity or active acne, and discuss any risks thoroughly with patients and their families. If there’s a chance of a deeper issue, we are likely to refer prospective patients to an appropriate specialist.

One risk we can dismiss is the notion that breast growth may re-occur if surgery is performed too early. In many years of working with teens with gynecomastia in New York, we have never seen this happen. Not once!

If you’re interested in finding out more about teen gynecomastia for yourself or someone you care about, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to share what we have learned.

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