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What is Breast Asymmetry?

By Stephany Seipel
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Breast asymmetry is a disorder characterized by a breast that is significantly larger or smaller than the other. A number of factors contribute to unevenly sized breasts. Doctors usually treat breast asymmetry with surgery.

Most women do not have perfectly symmetrical breasts. The differences between the breasts are usually subtle and do not significantly affect the woman's quality of life. Breasts that are noticeably different in size or shape can cause significant emotional and self-esteem problems.

Breast asymmetry occurs for a number of reasons. Unevenly placed breast implants, prior surgical procedures or faulty cosmetic surgeries can lead to asymmetry. Growth during puberty and fluctuations in weight also contribute to differences in breast sizes, as do pregnancy and nursing.

Several medical conditions also cause breast asymmetry. Poland's syndrome, for example, is a condition that appears in teenage girls. It is characterized by a lack of pectoral muscles and the absence of breast development on one side of the body. The nipple or areola also might be absent. Other conditions include scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and scleroderma, an autoimmune connective tissue disease.

Cosmetic surgeons treat breast asymmetry by either enlarging one breast or reducing the other so that the two sides are proportionate and evenly matched. Breast reduction surgery reduces the size of the larger breast. It usually takes two to four hours and is performed while the patient is under anesthesia. The surgeon makes a T-shaped or anchor-shaped incision on the lower part of the breast. He or she removes excess breast tissue and repositions or re-sizes the nipple as needed so that it matches the other breast.

Breast enlargement or augmentation surgery enlarges the size of the smaller breast. This procedure usually takes less than two hours and is also performed under anesthesia. The surgeon makes a small incision at the nipple, below the breast or in the underarm. He or she inserts an implant and aligns it as closely as possible with the size and shape of the other breast.

Breast asymmetry surgical procedures involve the risk of complications, and many doctors will not perform breast surgery on women who are younger than 18 years old, depending upon the type and severity of the disorder. Both procedures will leave scars on the breasts, and scar tissue can thicken. Other risks include leakage from the implants, loss of sensation in the nipple and possible infection or bleeding. Breast asymmetry surgery usually will not result in perfectly matching breasts, but it can increase a woman's self-esteem and satisfaction with her body.

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