A Nigerian Man's Struggle with Gynecomastia and the Quest for Acceptance and Affordable Treatment

Main image to the post A Nigerian Man's Struggle with Gynecomastia and the Quest for Acceptance and Affordable Treatment

Living with Gynecomastia in Nigeria

The small lump on my chest appeared just days before my 21st birthday in 2017. I was weightlifting at the time, often walking around the house shirtless. Three weeks later, the lump had doubled in size. A doctor diagnosed me with gynecomastia, a condition where an imbalance of hormones causes an overdevelopment of breast tissue.

The irony was not lost on me. I was weightlifting to achieve a chiseled chest, a symbol of masculinity, yet I had developed a distinctly feminine trait. The doctor assured me it was common, but by the time I started university the following year, it had become a source of embarrassment.

In Nigeria, where I live, a man having feminine qualities can lead to ridicule and even physical harm. Many associate "unmanliness" with homosexuality, which is illegal. My life became a constant struggle to hide my condition. I wore loose-fitting clothes, even in the heat, and avoided activities that required me to be bare-chested. I passed up opportunities to play on my university football team and gave up on giving class presentations.

My social life suffered too. I had only a few friends and missed out on the spontaneous experiences most people have at university. Once, a friend joked that I needed to buy a bra. Her words cut so deeply that I avoided her for the rest of the term.

This constant burden could be alleviated with a subcutaneous mastectomy, a surgeon recently told me. However, the surgery is prohibitively expensive, costing nearly 1.9 million naira (£1,000), far exceeding my monthly wage.

Through a Nigerian chatroom, I found others with the condition. I discovered I wasn't alone, and that others had gone on to lead fulfilling lives after surgery. Hearing their stories gave me hope.

While I still wear mostly loose-fitting clothes, my social anxiety is less crippling. I have learned to love my body as it is, even as I dream of the day I can finally have the surgery.

Gynecomastia is rarely reported in the media, and there are no official figures on the number of Nigerian men affected. There are also not enough support groups to ensure the mental well-being of those with the condition.

The Nigerian government and healthcare organizations must do more to create awareness about gynecomastia. These efforts will not only help to de-stigmatize the condition but also provide much-needed support to those living with it.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09