Breast asymmetry – a condition where a woman’s breasts are different in shape, size, or position – is very common. Most women experience breast asymmetry during adolescence as the breasts start to develop. This may be caused by an imbalance in the amount of breast tissue cells on both sides of the chest. The imbalance may correct itself in time as both breasts become fully developed. Other times, breast asymmetry can develop during adulthood, at one point or the other in a woman’s life. Many women who have this condition suffer from psychological consequences such as self-consciousness and low self-esteem. In this article, we explore breast asymmetry and discuss treatment approaches to alleviate this condition.
Causes of unequal breasts
Breast asymmetry is quite common because it affects more than half of women. Unequal breasts may result from a number of causes, including:
- Significant weight gain or weight loss
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Hormonal changes (e.g. menstruation, pregnancy, taking birth control, menopause, etc.)
- Poor posture
In rare cases, differences in breast sizes can result from certain medical conditions.
- Atypical ductal hyperplasia – this refers to an overgrowth of tissue in breast milk ducts. The number of cells lining the milk ducts are more than normal and have irregular size and shape. This can result in the appearance of lumps in the breast, which can in turn affect breast appearance. While Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia (ADH) is not a cancer diagnosis, it can increase your risk of getting cancer in the future. Doctors typically use surgery to remove the abnormal cells and rule out the presence of invasive cancer in the breast. Intensive screenings for breast cancer are usually a part of the treatment approach.
- Hypoplastic breasts – this refers to ‘underdeveloped’ breasts that appear thin, small, spaced too far apart, and very uneven. The nipple-areola complex may appear very large in proportion to the rest of the breast. This ailment has no cause, but some health experts believe it may be driven by hormones, or caused by injury or other medical conditions. This condition may be corrected using surgery to augment the breasts.
- Juvenile hypertrophy – this is a rare condition where one breast appears considerably larger than the other one. Although the precise cause isn’t known, it may be related to hormone sensitivity or production. Juvenile hypertrophy tends to manifest during puberty, following a period of excessive breast enlargement, then another period of slower but consistent breast growth. Plastic surgeons can correct this condition using surgery.
When should I be worried about uneven breasts?
Uneven breasts are usually just a cosmetic issue and not a major health scare. However, if you develop a sudden decrease or increase in the volume of a breast, it is important to take note. This is more so true when this change comes with other symptoms such as dimpling, skin retraction, thickening, or a color change. Such changes should be presented to your physician immediately because they may be the warning signs for certain types of tumors. A 2015 study found that women who experience a breast size change of over 20% may be at the risk of breast cancer. Any suspicious changes should be reported to your doctor right away. For most women, breast asymmetry is a purely aesthetic issue not associated with the risk of cancer or other health issues. Even so, it may still lead to disorienting emotional consequences, affecting your self-esteem and quality of life. In this case it is important that you take action to address the asymmetry.
Treatment for uneven breasts
Many women who have one breast that is bigger than the other spend a lot of time looking for effective fixes. The best treatment approach will be influenced by your body type, personal preference, and more so the degree of your asymmetry. Some minor unevenness may be alleviated through simple home remedies, whereas pronounced asymmetry will need plastic surgery for a satisfactory outcome.
Home remedies for lopsided breast
There are certain home remedies that could be effective to correct minor breast asymmetry. These include:
- Breast massage – massaging the smaller breast can help reduce the difference in size between the two breasts. How does this work? The working theory is that when supplied with the nutrients they need through the massage, fatty cells in the breast can increase in size. Start by rubbing your palms together so you can warm them up. Apply sesame or flaxseed oil and massage your breasts in a circular motion while applying slight pressure. In addition to helping increase the size, breast massage may also help increase blood circulation, prevent sagging, reduce breast cancer risk, help you look younger, and relieve stress. It is okay to massage both breasts so long as you massage the smaller breast more.
- Exercising – how you lose or gain weight also has an impact on your breast size. This is because breasts are usually created from a combination of fat and breast tissue. Chest and upper body workouts with or without the use of dumbbells can result in perky and firmer breasts that are more desirable and that improve your self-confidence.
Uneven breast surgery
For many women, breast surgery is the only fix to correct imbalanced breasts. Depending on the exact cause and extent of your asymmetry, your Phoenix plastic surgeon can use a number of procedures to achieve the desired outcome:
→ Breast reduction surgery
Also referred to as reduction mammoplasty – is a cosmetic surgery to reduce the appearance of female breast(s). If you are happy with the size of the smaller breast, your plastic surgeon will perform a reduction on the larger breast in order to create a more balanced and proportionate appearance. This surgical option is best suited for women who have evenly shaped breasts, but different sizes. Reduction mammoplasty is considered to be an outpatient procedure that takes about 2-5 hours to complete. Some women also choose to have a breast lift along with the reduction. In this case, the surgeon will modify both breasts in order to create a uniform size, along with a perkier and youthful-looking breast appearance. It takes between 3-5 weeks to recover after a breast reduction so you would need to create time off work or school.
→ Breast implant surgery
This is the procedure of choice for women who want to improve the fullness and volume of both breasts while also correcting the asymmetry. Plastic surgeons use artificial implants (saline or silicone implants) to achieve the desired increase in size. These implants usually last about 20 years and typically come with a manufacturer warranty. Breast augmentation (using implants) is the most popular of all cosmetic surgical procedures. In 2019 alone, more than 299,000 women received this treatment to suit their cosmetic goals. Even more interesting, more than 98% of women who had breast augmentation were satisfied with the outcome of the treatment. While more than 85% of breast implant surgery patients use silicone implants, you may also use saline (saltwater) implants if they suit the goals of your surgery. Breast enlargement surgery is an outpatient procedure that is either performed at your surgeon’s in-office operating room or an accredited medical facility. The surgery takes about 2-3 hours to complete, with a recovery downtime of 2-4 weeks.
→ Fat transfer augmentation
For women who are concerned about the use of synthetic implants, breast augmentation may be performed using fat transfer in order to result in a natural look. In this kind of uneven breast surgery, the plastic surgeon will extract fat from a part of your body where it is not needed (such as the tummy, buttocks, arms, or hips) and use it to improve the size of the smaller breast. Because tissue from the patient’s own body is used (rather than artificial implants), this procedure results in a permanent, natural outcome. Fat transfer augmentation is an outpatient procedure that takes about 3 hours to complete. In addition to the correction of breast unevenness, the patient also reaps the added benefit of liposuction (removal of excess fat) in the donor area. For instance, if excess fat is removed from the belly area, it will result in a flatter and firmer abdomen, similar to the outcome of a separate plastic surgery procedure known as a tummy tuck. The majority of women who undergo this treatment are able to resume normal work within a week or two.
Surgery Pros & Cons
Surgery to fix one breast that is bigger than the other is a highly beneficial solution because it results in a permanent outcome. However, it is important that patients are aware of the cons as well. Since surgery entails creating incisions in your skin, these procedures result in some scarring. Make sure to talk to your surgeon about his incision approaches, and strictly adhere to postoperative scar care instructions. If everything is done right, these scars tend to fade and become hardly noticeable with time. For patients who undergo implant breast surgery, there is a minor risk that the implants may rupture, wrinkle, or malposition – making a revision procedure necessary. Fat transfer augmentation – on the other hand – is a complex procedure that has its own risks, such as the formation of lumps and cysts, or the fat graft not surviving. The key for patients is to seek a seasoned plastic surgeon so as to ensure a successful outcome.