Breast asymmetry is a condition in which one breast is different from the other, either in terms of size, shape, or position on the chest wall. The asymmetry tends to become most noticeable during puberty, and in many cases will resolve as the breasts complete their growth. In some cases, significant differences between the breasts can persist, and may require surgical correction.
There are several possible causes for breast asymmetry, and these include congenital breast asymmetry, such as the tuberous breast deformity, in which the breasts are different from birth or puberty; degenerative asymmetry, in which the breasts are initially the same size, but one may change as a result of a localized condition; acquired asymmetry, secondary to infection, pregnancy, breastfeeding, surgery, or weight gain or loss; and deformities of the chest wall, such as Poland’s syndrome, which affect the overlying breast tissues. Differences between the breasts can be very distressing for young women in particular, and may make it difficult to find clothing that fits properly.
Surgical correction of breast asymmetry is guided by the underlying reason for the difference between the breasts. In some cases, more than one surgery may be required. Frequently, one breast may be augmented while the other is reduced or lifted. In some cases, only one breast requires surgery. If just the nipple-areolar complexes are different, surgery may be restricted to this region alone. Surgery is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, and takes between 2-3 hours to perform depending upon the degree of complexity. Patients may shower and perform light activities that day, but heavy exercise and sexual activity should be restricted for 2 weeks after surgery. In some cases, a second operation will be required 6-12 months later for additional correction of the underlying asymmetry. Correction of breast asymmetry does not reduce the risk of breast cancer, and all patients are encouraged to continue their regular self-examinations and screening mammograms.