This week on DrSugar, we round out our series on women's health issues with a discussion on breast size asymmetry — this is a surprisingly common concern among female adolescents and even adult women! Breast size asymmetry is when a woman's breasts are different in size and is defined as a difference of form, position, or volume of the breast, and it affects more than half of all women. Typically, the asymmetry is more noticeable during puberty and eventually breast size evens out during development. However, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital website, up to 25 percent of women have a persistent visible breast asymmetry. To learn more, keep on reading.
Any discussion of the size or shape of a woman's breasts requires some rudimentary understanding of the anatomy of the breast itself. The breasts are made of glands contained within the front of the chest wall. The average breast weighs between seven and 10 ounces and is primarily composed of 12 to 20 lobes that spread out from the nipple like the spokes in a bicycle tire. The lobes each have one central duct that opens at the nipple, through which milk exits, in a lactating woman. Breast tissue can change according to your menstrual cycle. Women may find that their breasts feel fuller and are more sensitive when they are ovulating; and, in fact, they actually do get bigger because of water retention and additional blood flow.
The exact cause of asymmetric breasts is unknown, but possible contributors include hormonal changes or traumatic injuries. Occasionally, an underlying medical or skeletal condition may cause asymmetrical breasts. One such condition, called juvenile, or virginal, hypertrophy of the breast, is a very rare problem in which one breast grows significantly larger than the other, leading to physical and psychological problems. It is typically treated with surgery. Any sudden or recent differences in breast size due to underlying breast masses should be evaluated by a physician, either by starting the evaluation with your primary care doctor or seeing a surgeon who specializes in breasts. Other possible causes include scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and deformities in the chest wall.
One thing to keep in mind, according to WebMD, is that there is some research that suggests that breast asymmetry may be a marker for women who have an increased risk of breast cancer. While this research finding warrants further investigation, women with breast asymmetry (and all women for that matter) should conduct regular self breast exams and, when the time is appropriate, obtain regular screening mammograms.
Generally, slight differences in a woman's breasts are of no concern. If the differences are greater than one bra cup size, however, they may cause some psychological distress, particularly during adolescence, when a young woman's body and mind are already changing so rapidly. Padded bras or bra pads may make the asymmetry less of a problem. Should a woman have persistent visible breast asymmetry, she should seek consultation with a physician for further evaluation. An augmentation or reduction surgical procedure may be performed, if the person with the asymmetry wishes, to make the breasts more symmetric after development/puberty is complete.
Have a question for DrSugar? You can send it to me via private message here, and I will forward it to the good doctor.
DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.