Living with Pectus Carinatum

So if you follow me on social media I often talk about chest and lung conditions and support a number of related causes. I have two conditions, which effect my chest and lungs. The first I am blogging about is called Pectus Carinatum, the second is a lung condition which I will blog about shortly.

So what is Pectus Carinatum ?

So Pectus Carinatum is a chest deformity where the breastbone protrudes outwards rather then being flat. It is caused by an overgrowth of cartilage which forms the breastbone. As it causes the chest to protrude outwards, the condition has the nickname, ‘Pigeon Chest’. Personally, I hate using the nick name and rather refer to the conditions medical name.

Children with Pectus Carinatum

Although born with the condition it was only when I entered my teenage years that it became really noticeable. Up until that point I don’t remember even thinking about it really in my childhood until I was about 10 or 11. I don’t know whether that was because it wasn’t as noticeable or because I hadn’t realised just how different it was to other boys chests in my class.

When I was 10 I began swimming lessons and it was at this point I was asking more questions about the condition and went to see my GP with my mum. (We had been to see him several times before about it , but I don’t really remember these appointments.) My GP didn’t really have much to say on it. He gave me some exercises to try and expand my chest as well as telling me to focus on keeping my back straight. Apart from that his only other advice was that as I grew older my chest muscles would grow and lesson the impact. In short he didn’t really know much about the condition at all.

Although I had started noticing it more and asking questions it still didn’t bother me that much. At the age of 11 I was an active swimmer, in the school and local club football team, in the school rugby team, cricket and athletics teams.

Teenager with Pectus Carinatum

At 12/13 it was becoming more of an issue. The boys in the changing room were asking questions and making fun of it. I got very self-conscious and would change in a corner. I also got concerned at this point that people could see it under my shirt. I also remember my chest getting in the way more, particularly when do exercises that involved me lying on my stomach. By the end of this school year my confidence had seriously dropped, I had dropped out of all sports teams both in and out of school. Initially I stopped due to being injured, but my chest was the reason I didn’t return to sport.

Throughout the remainder of my school years my chest made me incredibly self-conscious. In P.E. I would always change in the corner or try and switch tops while always keeping another layer on. Eventually in Year 11 I even stopped doing PE altogether really. Which, thinking about it now was a huge transformation from being in nearly every school sports team to not even doing 30 minutes or so a week.

When I hit 16 my confidence began to grow back a little. I guess this was a mixture of majoring a little and not having PE anymore. I started having a girlfriend and although petrified of what she would think of my chest, she didn’t care. (Although this relationship ended after a few months.) This somewhat boosted my confidence even more. In my college years I had another girlfriend who also didn’t see it as an issue at all. This really helped my confidence, possibly even a bit too much as I think I flipped from incredibly shy and self-confident to a bit cocky.

All was moving smoothly along until a month before my 19th birthday I collapsed at work unable to breathe. This was due to a lung condition which I didn’t know I had. I will elaborate on this in my next blog post.

Having spent quite a lot of time in hospital with my lung condition and under a number of different consultants, my Pectus Carinatum came up in many conversations. Many nurses and even some doctors did not know what is was, nor come across it before. However, this was mainly a&e departments, or general wards. When on Cardio-thoracic wards where I spent most of my time, it was well known what it was. Although, still quite rare for them I was often asked if a group of student doctors could come and see me, both for my unique lung condition and Pectus Carinatum.

Pectus Carinatum in Adults

I am now 34, married with a house 2 dogs and a good job. Although it does not bother my wife it does still bother me. My confidence is not as low like it was in my teenage years but it still prevents me from doing things such as swimming, or taking my top off in public. I have a number of scars from chest surgery but none of these bother me as much as the shape of my chest. I often catch people looking at my chest when in conversation or feel it when they hug me and this makes me really uncomfortable.

Living With Pectus Carinatum

During a check up with my Cardio-thoracic consultant, who also happens to have an interest in Pectus Carinatum, he mentioned he could surgically correct it. At the time I dismissed it as I was focused on sorting my lungs out. However now that my lungs are settled and feeling that it is still making me uncomfortable, I am considering speaking to him about a surgical correction.

It would be quite a major operation, likely to be complicated further with my lung condition. But I am thinking if it is something I want to do, or at least look into a bit further. By this I mean recovery time, and risk with lung condition. At the minute I am quite undecided.


NHS – Pectus Carinatum

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