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Gigantomastia in men: I became suicidal after growing giant breasts in high school

HEALTH
By Rosa Agutu | March 26th 2021

When Derrick Mutua joined Form One, he had broken his voice, he was slightly taller, his shoulders were broadening. But also noticed something else that was worrying- his breasts were growing bigger. 

Life has not been easy for Mutua, now a candidate at Machakos Baptist Secondary. By Form Two, the breasts “became visible, but I had no one to tell my worries because after my parents died I was living with my grandmother, then later my aunty so I was surrounded by women,” he says as the said auntie, Winfred Nduku Waema, listens.

Mutua was suffering from Gigantomastia, a rare condition characterised by excessive growth of breasts. It can begin in puberty or during pregnancy. Or after taking certain medications.

To hide the breasts, Mutua says he wore sweaters throughout “whether it was sunny or cold I never removed my sweater, sometimes at school I got in trouble with teachers when they wanted us to remove our sweaters.”

Stigma from schoolmates and neighbours followed forcing Mutua to keep to himself. He was also quick to anger. His school performance deteriorated.

“I would get comments like ‘are you a man or a woman?’ Others would not comment but the looks they gave me said it all.  So I decided to isolate myself and my defence mechanism was being rude to everyone,” he recalls adding that sometimes thoughts of harming himself often crossed his mind.

“I had thoughts of killing myself because I wondered if troubles were meant for me, I lost hope in God,” says the 19-year old of the darkest moment of his life.

However, everything changed for the better when aunt Nduku got in touch with a clinical officer at Machakos Level 5 who linked them with Ruth Makena, the founder of Gigantomastia in 2018.

Mutua underwent successful surgery the following November and “when I went back to school in January 2020 I was so confident and it was satisfying to see the shocked look of people and students who stigmatized me.”

Derrick says he’s glad he never gave up on himself and the whole experience inspired him into medicine with being a neurosurgeon as his dream career.

I have dealt with 180 surgeries: Founder, Gigantomastia Foundation

Ruth Makena, Founder Gigantomastia Foundation poses with a patient. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

Ruth Makena, founder, Gigantomastia Foundation said that she started her foundation because she had the same breast condition years ago, “I saw the stigma that faces people with this condition and I decided to address the issue the best way I could.” Ruth says a lot of people suffer from this condition unknowingly and thus she saw the need to create the awareness.

This  was after she was diagnosied with gigantomastia in the year 2010.  “And I successfully had a breast reduction corrective surgery having a total of 7.3kgs was removed from my chest,” he says.

Ruth adds she has done gigantomastia surgeries for 180 people in her foundation. “I have dealt with 180 surgeries to date and am pleased that more and more women are opening up to the fact that gigantomastia is indeed an issue and are coming out for assistance.” She said that sadly insurance does not pay for this kind of surgery much as it is not a cosmetic condition.

The condition presents itself with characteristics like very large and heavy breasts, neck pain, back pain, shoulder Ulcers around the breast and Hormonal imbalance, “the condition is very common, one in ten women suffer from this condition difference is that others are not aware of it.”

“I had my surgery 10 years ago and it cost me 500 000 Kenya shillings.” According to Ruth, the average cost of a breast reduction ranges between kshs 300 000 and  1 Million Ksh depending on the surgeon and facility used. She Notes that  after the surgery the surgeon follows up on the patients progress for about 3 to 4 weeks. “ Post operative care includes a patient having a surgical sports bra to mould the breasts and suture removal is done on the 3rd week post operation.” she said.

Stigma is a big concern in the society, “Girls with this condition are married off at an early age. They suffer low self esteem because they are called names because of the size of their breasts.” Ruth says that her foundation is a work in progress and they have not been able to completely eradicate the stigma much as the awareness is ongoing. Ruth says the stigma may be fatal sometimes and leads to suicide on other occasions.

 

Things you need to know about Gigantomastia

Dr Martin Ajujo

Dr Martin Ajujo (pictured above), a reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon explains that there are of two types of the condition and “you have to be predisposed genetically for you to develop gigantomastia” which mostly start at puberty when “a young girl has breasts that are bigger than her age. Then second occurs during pregnancy and breastfeeding. He answers some of the most frequently asked questions about gigantomastia.

Can a woman breastfeed after surgery?
“Breastfeeding is variable; a woman will be able to breastfeed. However, the nipple sensation might remain the same or become hypersensitive. We have to notify someone there will be scaring as any surgery that we do must have a scar, however we do scaring management.”

What are the chances of recurring, getting cancer?
There is no underlying cause so, there’s no reoccurrence. It’s a one-time surgery. From studies, reducing the breasts reduces chances of getting cancer because they reducing the volume of breast tissue also reduce chances of breast malignancy. It’s a growth and not a cancer. If left unchecked it will make the woman’s life unbearable.

What tissues are removed during reduction?
We reduce the skin; they reduce the fat and the breast tissue because those are the components of the breast.

Can contraceptives cause gigantomastia?
Not really. Breast growth is proportional to your exposure to hormones. Some of the contraceptives are combined with estrogen and progesterone, what is known to be the side effect of hormonal contraceptive in weight gain and when you have weight gain everything grows including breasts because part of the beast tissue is fat.  You have to be predisposed genetically for you to develop gigantomastia.

How do you know a breast is too heavy and should be removed?
We measure after removal of the tissue. In other countries if you remove tissues worth 250g from each breast that is considered gigantomastia. In Kenya we have to remove up to seven to eight kilos from women. It’s a matter of symptoms and not weight. We look at symptoms and physical distraction.

Is it covered by insurance?
Insurances take gigantomastia as a cosmetic surgery and it’s not, it’s a reconstructive surgery that improves the quality of life.

What is added when a woman has small breast and wants them increased?
That is purely cosmetic surgery. When dealing with breast augmentation you can use the patient’s own tissue in this case fat or muscle or implant to give volume. Implant could be silicon or saline which is basically salty water.

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