By Gordon Deegan
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has spent an estimated €207,000 on ‘man boob’ reduction operations over the past four years.
Figures provided by the HSE in response to a written Dáil question by Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy TD on the issue show that between 2014 and the end of August last, the HSE has carried out 46 ‘man-boob’ reduction operations.
'Man-boobs' or gynaecomastia is swelling of the breast tissue in men or boys, caused by an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone.
The figures provided by the HSE show that between January and August last year, the HSE performed nine elective procedures, 12 elective and one emergency procedure in 2016, 10 elective procedures in 2015 and 14 elective procedures in 2014.
In its written reply to Deputy Troy, the HSE stated that those who do undergo surgery are usually treated by a general breast surgeon or plastic surgeon.
Medical Director with at the privately owned Venus Medical in Dublin, Dr Peter Prendergast said yesterday he performs “20-30 cases of male breast reduction annually, but the number is indeed growing”.
Dr Prendergast said: “I meet several men every week who are extremely concerned about the appearance of their breasts. They wear loose, baggy clothes to conceal the contour of their chest. They avoid beaches."
He went on: “They are embarrassed when they are with their partners or even children, who often, innocently, pass remarks. Surgery on these patients, whether excisional surgery or liposuction, is often indicated and can be life-changing for them.”
Dr Prendergast said that men continue to be “extremely” embarrassed by their gynecomastia.
Dr Prendergast said that “‘man boobs’ or ‘moobs’ are unhelpful terms that do little to ameliorate the situation for those who suffer psychologically from gynaecomastia or enlarged male breasts.
Asked why he thinks the number of males undergoing the procedure is on the rise, Dr Prendergast said: “The number is growing in my practice as more men become aware of the possibility of improving the appearance of their chest without the need for surgery that requires general anaesthesia.
"Men also realise that is it a very common concern, and nothing to be ashamed about.”
Dr Pendergast said: “Up to 30% of men have enlarged breasts and many of them are extremely bothered by their appearance. For some, it is true gynaecomastia, where the actual breast gland is enlarged.
"Others have so-called pseudo-gynaecomastia where there is simply excessive fatty tissue in the chest. It is often very resistant to diet and exercise, and the only remedy for aesthetically acceptable results is surgery.”
Dr Prendergast, who has been carrying out gynaecomastia reduction procedures for the past 10 years, said that the cost of each procedure is around €4,500.
He said: “My preferred choice for treating gynaecomastia and enlarged male breasts is to to use a sophisticated form of liposuction called VASER. This requires only 4mm incisions, and the use of local anaesthetic injected into the area.”
He said: “The procedure takes just one hour, and the patient can go home straight away afterwards since no general anaesthetic is required. Apart from wearing a special compression garment and taking mild pain relief, the recovery is quick and most men return to work within 2-3 days.”
The HSE states that up to 69% of pubertal boys experience some degree of gynaecomastia, it is usually a self-limited condition within months to three years.
It says: "Persistent male gynaecomastia is a rare indication for surgery in Ireland with 10 to 15 occurring operations per year."
Deputy Troy said yesterday that he placed the question as a constituent was clinically assessed for such a procedure and was deemed a suitable candidate.
However, Deputy Troy said that HSE cutbacks meant that the procedure was not open to the constituent.
Deputy Troy said that the man's gynaecomastica has had a profound effect on the man in terms of his mental health.
He said: "The small number of procedures to have taken place over the last few years show that this is not a priority for the HSE."
A spokeswoman for the HSE said: "There has been no curtailing or restricting of funding for this service. Patients are assessed and treated based on clinical need."