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The NHS guide to cosmetic procedures

Breast reduction (male)

Some men find that one or both breasts may be abnormally large.

Known as gynaecomastia, this condition can result from a hormone imbalance or from being very overweight, which can increase levels of oestrogen and cause breast tissue to grow.

Breast reduction surgery is an option for men with this condition. It may also be used to tighten the breast area after dramatic weight loss that has caused the skin to sag.

However, it is not suitable for men whose large breasts are simply excess fat from being overweight.

Normally, you'll need to pay for breast reduction surgery privately. But the NHS may provide this for you if you've had gynecomastia for a long time, it has not responded to other treatments, and it's causing you a lot of distress or pain.

Read on to find out:

How much does it cost to have privately?

In the UK, breast reduction surgery for men costs £3,500-£5,500, plus the cost of any consultations or follow-up care that may not be included in the price.

Where do I go?

If you're looking in England, check the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website for providers that can perform breast reductions for men. 

All independent clinics and hospitals that provide cosmetic surgery in England must be registered with the CQC. The CQC publishes inspection reports and performance ratings to help people choose care.

Also, research the surgeon who is going to carry out the operation. All doctors must, as a minimum, be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). Check the register to see the doctor's fitness to practise history.

You may also want to find out:

  • how many operations they've performed where there have been complications
  • what sort of aftercare you will receive
  • what sort of follow-up you should expect if things go wrong, and who would pick up the costs if things go wrong
  • their own patient satisfaction rates

Read more about choosing a cosmetic surgeon.

What does it involve?

Breast reduction surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic

There are several techniques the surgeon could use, but generally the operation involves:

  • making a cut (incision) around the nipple
  • using liposuction to suck out excess fatty tissue
  • extending the cuts and repositioning the nipples if there is a lot of tissue to remove

The operation takes about 90 minutes. You usually need to stay in hospital overnight.

Recovery

It can take a few weeks to fully recover from breast reduction surgery. You may need to take a few days off work. It can take up to six months to see the full results.

You will need to wear an elastic garment day and night for a few weeks after the operation.

The length of time you need to keep the dressings on depends on how quickly your wounds heal. After one or two weeks, your stitches will either dissolve or be removed at an outpatient clinic.

You should avoid stretching, strenuous exercise and heavy lifting for up to six weeks after the operation. You can drive again when it's no longer painful to wear a seatbelt, which may be several weeks.

Side effects to expect

It's typical after breast reduction surgery to have:

  • sore breasts for a few weeks
  • scars – these may take several months to fade

Most men are just left with a scar around the nipple. But a large breast reduction operation may also result in a scar that runs down vertically and horizontally across the breast crease.

What could go wrong

Breast reduction surgery can occasionally result in problems, including:

  • thick, obvious scarring
  • unevenly shaped breasts or nipples
  • wound healing problems 
  • loss of nipple sensation
  • bleeding inside the breast tissue (haematoma) – this generally occurs within the first 24 hours after the operation
  • developing lumps, bruising or swelling

Also, any type of operation carries a small risk of:

  • excessive bleeding
  • infection
  • an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic
  • a blood clot forming in the deep veins

The surgeon should explain how likely these risks and complications are, and how they would be treated if they occurred.

What to do if you have problems

Cosmetic surgery can sometimes go wrong, and the results may not be what you expected.

You should contact the clinic where the operation was carried out as soon as possible if you have severe pain or any unexpected symptoms, such as redness of your breast skin, a burning sensation or unusual swelling.

If you have breast reduction surgery and are not happy with the results or think the procedure wasn't carried out properly, you should take up the matter with your surgeon through the hospital or clinic where you were treated.

If you have concerns about your care, you can contact the CQC. If you have any concerns about your surgeon, you can make a complaint about a doctor to the General Medical Council (GMC).

For more information, read the Royal College of Surgeon's advice on What if things go wrong?

More information

British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS): gynecomastia 

Royal College of Surgeons: cosmetic surgery FAQs 

Page last reviewed: 19/05/2016

Next review due: 19/05/2019

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