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Asymmetric breasts

Nobody is perfect. Most women have one breast slightly larger than the other. Asymmetric breasts are common phenomena. According to health experts, breast asymmetry affects more than half of all women. Female breasts are rarely absolutely the same size or volume and slight variations are common. Many women could notice breast asymmetry (slight discrepancies in breast size) – difference in volume, size, shape, density or position. In general, two sides of human body might be slightly different but breast asymmetry is usually more noticeable. Significant difference in size, position and/or shape between breasts is less common. While in most cases asymmetric breasts can be considered as normal, sometimes it could be a sign of some diseases.

Asymmetric breasts – causes

Asymmetric breasts causes include genetic factors, random growth patterns during breast development, hormonal fluctuations and trauma. Rarely women could experience breast asymmetry during so called “Poland’s syndrome” – condition characterized by lack of chest muscles (pectoral muscles) on one side of body.

According to health experts, during puberty breasts often develop at slightly different pace. During breast development breasts could appear not symmetric until they have finished growing. After puberty they could become symmetric or remain asymmetric.

In general breast glandular tissue is very sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and hormonal changes could cause breast asymmetry at certain periods of life such as puberty, different periods of menstrual cycle, menopause and breastfeeding. Breast size can be also changed during long-term hormonal contraception.

Asymmetric breasts – types

Asymmetric breasts

Asymmetric breasts could occur in various types:

  • Difference in volume between breasts (most common) – difference in breast tissue and/or fat tissue;
  • Appearance – one breast looks larger than other;
  • Shapes – right and left breasts could have different shapes;
  • Nipples – breasts could have different nipple appearances (high or flat, large or small, bulging or inverted);
  • Position – one breast can be positioned higher or lateral;
  • Density (on mammogram) – different proportion of fat, glandular and fibrous tissues;
  • Specific differences – different forms of breasts, misshapen nipple areolas, different vessels appearance.

Asymmetric breasts – warning symptoms

Sometimes breast asymmetry (especially suddenly appeared) can be a sign of breast diseases including breast cancer. According to scientists, women with breast differences up to 20% should be considered at higher risk of breast cancer development. In general, in cases of asymmetric breasts it is essential to have regular screening mammography to ensure that any breast abnormalities are identified as soon as possible.

Special attention should be paid to certain symptoms in cases of asymmetric breasts:

  • Suddenly changed breast size,
  • Breast lump,
  • Increased underarm lymphatic glands,
  • Inverted nipple,
  • Breast skin changes (dimpled or puckered skin),
  • Nipple discharge (unusual in color and volume).

Asymmetric breasts – mammogram

Once women reach 40, it is essential to start regular breast self-exams and have regular annual mammography. For women with breast asymmetry it is recommended to follow yearly screening mammography which is essential for women breast health. Special attention should be paid to women with suddenly developing breast asymmetry. Mammogram can easily identify breast lumps, breast cyst, composition of fat and fibrous glandular tissue, difference in breast density and other abnormalities. It is important to compare past mammogram images for changes in shape, volume and density.

Asymmetric breasts vs breast cancer

Slight breast asymmetry shouldn’t be a subject of concern. At the same time, larger variation in breast asymmetry and suddenly changes breast density or size may be early signs of breast cancer.

According to scientists, breast asymmetry is related to several well known risk factors for breast cancer and women with diagnosed breast cancer have more breast volume asymmetry.

Breast asymmetry was greater in healthy women who later developed breast cancer than in women who did not.
Diane Scutt, Gillian A Lancaster and John T Manning, Breast Cancer Research 2006

Asymmetric breasts – solutions

In most cases breast differences are small and not obvious. But sometimes breast asymmetry is more noticeable, resulting in a difference of over one cup size (seen under clothes). In these cases women need special solutions including Breast Pads or surgical interventions.

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