Breast asymmetry or uneven breasts is a breast condition which occurs when one breast is different in size, form, volume or position from the other breast. This is a very common condition and affects almost half of the women in the world. The breasts are actually glands contained in the chest wall. An average breast weighs almost seven to ten ounces and has 12 to 20 lobes extending from the nipple. Each lobe has a duct which opens in the nipple, through which milk is produced. Breasts are an inherent component of feminine beauty and breast symmetry is key to the perfection. A young woman with uneven breasts is distressingly self-conscious.
The exact causes of asymmetry are unknown but it may be mostly due to hormonal changes or traumatic injuries. Breast tissues change during menstruation, and the breasts may seem full and sensitive because breast cells actually grow to retain water and increase blood flow. But they return to normal size after menstruation.Sometimes underlying fibroids can be a reason for asymmetry. Some of the researchers associate breast asymmetry with risks of breast cancer. This is usually not the case but in case you have asymmetrical breasts, mammography/ultrasound/MRI tests or laser scanning (3D scan) are recommended (Scutt, Lancaster & Manning, 2006). The doctor will examine the tests to see if there is any risk because of these breast changes.
Underlined are the most common breast asymmetry conditions:
Poland’s Syndrome: One of the causes of breast asymmetry is Poland’s syndrome, which results in the reduction of the size of the breast and sometimes the underlying ribcage and muscle as well. It is usually associated with the insufficient blood supply to breast region during childhood. It usually occurs in the right breast (Fokin & Robicsek, 2002). However, most of the women with asymmetrical breasts don’t suffer from this syndrome so exact causes are yet unknown. This condition is also known as Amastia.
Polymastia: This condition is the excessive growth of breast normally in the axillary area (Burdick, Thomas, Welsh, Powell & Elgart, 2003). The abnormal breast tissue may produce milk and is subject to all kinds of benign and malignant breast conditions. 2% to 6% of women are affected by Polymastia.
Polythelia: It is an asymmetric condition in which an accessory nipple is found along the breast line, more often in the inframammary region (the inferior area of a breast where breast and chest meet) (Greer, 1974). Most of the times, the patient believes it as a mole on breast and not the extra nipple.
Juvenile Hypertrophy: Sometimes the breast shape is similar but the size varies. This is mostly due to hormonal stimulations. If the volume difference reaches 30% or more then it is difficult to contain breasts in normal attire. One such condition is known as juvenile hypertrophy in which one breast grows excessively and can only be treated with a surgery (Govrin et al., 2004).
The shape of the breast also changes due to changes in glandular tissue and integrity of skin envelope. Most of the women experience breast shape disparities after pregnancy and lactation. Scoliosis, backbone curvature and chest wall deformities can change the shape and size of breasts as well.Other causes can be breast injury (burn, infection or surgery) or tumors (benign or malignant).According to a report in the medical literature, the girls who suffered from an injury in their “breast bud” during gymnastics or sports were subject to asymmetrical breast shape.
If there is a sudden or recent change in your breast shape, you should consult the doctor. Slight differences in symmetry are no concern but if the difference is huge, it can be a cause of distress among women, particularly in younger age. In that case, doctors recommend cosmetic surgery.Few most prevalent cosmetic treatments are:
- Breast Reduction Surgery: Surgery in which the larger breast is reduced in size to balance with the normal one.
- Breast lift: This method can improve the position of the breast by bringing them (both breasts) in balance to each other.
- Breast Augmentation: Different sizes and shapes’ implants are used to rebalance the breasts (Brown, Furnham, Glanville, & Swami, 2007).
Breast asymmetry negatively impacts the psychological health as the physical appearance is related to self-esteem, particularly in women (Singh, 1985). It also impacts the social functioning and emotional attitude of subjects. Breast Asymmetry is not just a cosmetic issue, counseling should be provided to the girls/women before opting for surgical options.
Brown, A., Furnham, A., Glanville, L., & Swami, V. (2007). Factors that affect the likelihood of undergoing cosmetic surgery. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 27(5), 501-508.
Fokin, A. A., & Robicsek, F. (2002). Poland’s syndrome revisited. The Annals of thoracic surgery, 74(6), 2218-2225.
Govrin-Yehudain, J., Kogan, L., Cohen, H. I., &Falik-Zaccai, T. C. (2004). Familial juvenile hypertrophy of the breast. Journal of adolescent health, 35(2), 151-155.
Greer, K. E. (1974). Accessory axillary breast tissue. Archives of Dermatology, 109(1), 88-89.
Scutt, D., Lancaster, G. A., & Manning, J. T. (2006). Breast asymmetry and predisposition to breast cancer. Breast cancer research, 8(2), R14.
Singh, D. (1995). Female health, attractiveness, and desirability for relationships: Role of breast asymmetry and wa