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Uneven breasts – causes, concerns, and treatments you can try

Uneven breasts are very common, with more than 50 per cent of women affected. Many may not even realise they are asymmetrical.

It can be completely natural. However, in some cases it may involve more serious problems, such as a sign of breast cancer or atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), which can increase the risk of cancer in the future.

But what causes uneven breasts and how can you treat them?

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What are uneven breasts?

Uneven breasts, or breast asymmetry, is a common occurrence present in many women’s breasts. It results in one breast looking or feeling slightly, or noticeably, different from the other – whether that’s because it is increased in size or has changed shape or density.

Uneven breasts are not usually a cause for concern, but any sudden changes should always be discussed with a doctor to get to the bottom of why it has happened.

What causes uneven breasts?

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes, such as those induced by the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, contraceptive pill, or the menopause, can cause breasts to change size. When you’re ovulating, breast tissue can become swollen, breastfeeding can make breasts become uneven and the menopause causes your glands to shrink, which can lead to a loss of fullness .

Puberty

Puberty awakens hormones like oestrogen, which fuels the reproductive system and causes breasts to develop. It is very common that one may begin to grow before or quicker than the other, temporarily resulting in uneven breasts.

Juvenile hypertrophy

Although rare, this condition can occur during puberty where one breast grows much larger than the other at a rapid rate. It usually happens after a six-month period of accelerated breast growth and is thought to be caused by hormone imbalances. The condition can resolve itself, however surgery is sometimes offered to extreme cases.

Trauma

Injuries can cause uneven breasts, most commonly when trauma happens to prepubescent tissue that is not yet fully developed. In adult life, uneven breasts can also be caused by trauma, infection, radiation, or surgery, which can make them swell or change shape.

What are the symptoms of uneven breasts I should see a doctor about?

You can normally tell if breasts are uneven on sight alone, the main symptoms being one simply looks larger than the other. In some cases when you notice any symptoms of uneven breasts you should see a doctor, as it might be a sign of more serious health problems.

It could be an early symptom of breast cancer, with research suggesting asymmetry above 20 per cent may mean women are at a higher risk. The sooner you speak to a doctor if this is the case, the better – although research into the connection is ongoing.

A change in size and/or shape

The key word here is ‘change’ – if your breasts have always been uneven, it’s most likely nothing to worry about. Many people who are unhappy with the shape and size of their breasts opt for breast augmentation surgery. However, if these changes are sudden, you should seek medical advice.

Changing density

Some cases of uneven breasts are caused by a change in density, meaning when one or both breasts become harder or softer. This can be caused by hormonal changes or trauma, so be on the lookout for tissue that feels thicker or firm on your breasts or under your arms.

Different position

Besides changing shape, size or density, uneven breasts can also be caused by one or both breasts changing position. Again, this could have many benign causes associated with hormones or ageing.

As with all symptoms and causes of uneven breasts, mammograms, and regular checks (both by yourself and by a doctor) are the best ways of finding out if something needs treating.

If you have any concerns about changes that you’re seeing in and around your breasts, such as discolouration, lumps, and indentations (including your chest, ribs, and under your arms), please speak to your doctor.

How can I treat uneven breasts?

Besides the treatment of issues that may be causing uneven breasts, such as growths, hormonal imbalances, or injury, the most popular way to ‘fix’ breast asymmetry is via breast augmentation surgery. These surgical methods can be used in isolation or combined to get the best results.

Surgical treatments

Breast implants

Silicone or saline implants are inserted into the breasts to create a larger look. Alongside these, there is also the option to have a fat transfer, or a tissue expansion implant, which is gradually inflated until it reaches the desired size.

Breast lift

A breast lift is performed by cutting around the areola, removing excess skin and fat, and reshaping the breast(s). This technique is used to create a more natural and uniform look. It can only lift the amount of breast you already have though – to increase the volume you’ll need to have an augmentation too. You can have both procedures done at the same time if you want to.

Breast reduction

The technique here is very similar to a lift, though more skin and fat is removed to create smaller breasts. Like the above options, this can be performed on one or both breasts depending on the severity of the asymmetry.

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