It seems a bit ironic. At the stage of life when self-image is most vulnerable, that’s when man boobs often show up. That was the case for John, who had the all-too-common experience of growing “breasts” around age 12.
John’s chest started developing in middle school and continued into high school. At first, he didn’t quite know what to think about this growth, but he did know it was affecting his self-esteem. He says, “It didn’t completely consume me, but it sure didn’t help.” John employed the usual coping strategies of wearing baggy clothes and concealing the condition from others.
John is fortunate to have an understanding, supportive parents. The family began discussing the situation and John started research on the Internet. He learned his condition is called gynecomastia and discovered that surgery is the only solution when enlarged breasts persist.
When John turned 15, he and his parents visited their family doctor who referred them to an endocrinologist. John had his hormone levels tested – they proved to be normal. This underscored what the family learned from their primary care physician: the causes of gynecomastia are still not well understood.
The next step was to visit plastic surgeons to find out about male breast reduction. The family found Dr. Jacobs on the Internet and set up a consultation. John had seen videos of the surgical procedure on YouTube by this point, including some footage of Dr. Jacobs working with teenagers. “I wanted to prepare myself,” says John, “plus, the videos were interesting,” John remembers learning that Dr. Jacobs and his staff had treated thousands of men with gynecomastia in New York, including many younger patients. That made an impression on John.
By this time John had concluded that male breast reduction was right for him, but he did not make the decision lightly. He had suffered a dramatic leg break one summer not long ago, and surgery was required to repair it. The experience was difficult, including a long recuperation spent largely on the couch, and John wasn’t wild undergoing another recovery process. He remarks, “I remember thinking the first surgery had to be done, but surgery for gynecomastia didn’t.”
Still, John knew his condition “wouldn’t fix itself.” And, judging that recovery from gynecomastia surgery would be much easier than what he had been through before, he concluded that a couple of weeks of inconvenience and discomfort would be well worth the result.
John had surgery with Dr. Jacobs last summer. He scheduled the procedure at a time when he would not return to his friends and normal activities suddenly looking different. Due to his research and careful thought process, John was more excited than apprehensive on the eve of the big day.
The surgery went smoothly. John experienced moderate discomfort that first night and for a just a few days afterward that he managed with medication. When the bandages came off the second day after surgery, John knew he had made the right decision. He recalls looking “pretty bruised and red,” but “I could already tell I was going to look good.”
The only hitch came from having to wear the compression garment in extremely hot, East Coast weather. John kept in touch with Dr. Jacobs, who helped him strategize about balancing comfort with the need to keep swelling at bay.
John’s results were final about three months after surgery, and today he looks just the way he had hoped he would. Because his case was “severe,” John says he went down a shirt size almost immediately. He reports that surgery changed almost everything he wears.
If John is ever in a position to advise another young man dealing with “moobs,” he says he may tell them that surgery both takes and gives in this way: “It takes away the burden, the struggle. It gives self-confidence.” If a teen is engaged in a decision process similar to John’s, John might say, “The small amount of pain you’ll have after surgery doesn’t compare to the relief you’ll feel afterward because such a huge burden is lifted off your shoulders.”