FOR Nikunj Mallik (23, name changed), a job at the Chicago head office of a leading management consultancy firm was a dream come true. But an embarrassment dampened his spirits: the womanly breasts he had since he was 16. So, a few months before he emigrated, he went to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital for breast-reduction surgery.
“Because of the enlarged breasts, the man was too embarrassed to go swimming, gymming or even wear T-shirts,” says plastic surgeon S.S. Saha, who has performed many such surgeries.
These days, there is one man for every two women desperate for breast reduction. “About 30 per cent of young men have the problem of enlarged mammary glands, or gynaecomastia,” says cosmetic surgeon Vivek Kumar. “But it’s only now that an increasing number of them are turning up for breast reduction surgery,” he adds. He estimates their number to have soared by about 25 per cent in the past two years; others say it has doubled.
Most patients are 16 to 25 years old. “There is also a second group aged 45 years and above. That’s when the second youth sets in and they want to get back in shape,” says Dr Vasundhara Oberoi, aesthetic cosmetic and plastic surgeon. Enlarged breasts in men is often a result of hormonal changes during puberty. But they don’t always shrink back in shape with age.
The condition can also occur due to certain drugs, such as medicines for heart diseases or ulcers. “In extreme cases, lactation might also occur,” says Dr P.K. Talwar of the Cosmetic Laser Surgery Centre of India.
“But this is extremely uncommon and calls for thorough investigation,” adds Dr Kumar. Despite speculation about drugs and naturopathy as a cure, the only way out is liposuction and gland removal. Its affordability has made it increasingly common, says Dr Biraj Naithani of Max Balaji Hospital. And men are doing it for the same reason as women: to feel confident and attractive.