Womens Health

FAQs about Appearance and Size of Breasts

Frederick R. Jelovsek MD


Appearance of breasts

For the past couple of years my breasts always seem to be swollen. It is most noticeable right after I take off my bra or when I'm warm. My areolas get very large and I'm really embarrassed about it. It affects my relationship with my fiance because I won't let him see me without clothes. I also have the blue veins. I had a child 7 years ago, but I can't remember if I had these problems right after I had him or not. I just want a way to reduce the size of my areolas and stop the swelling. Thanks!

It is normal for the size of areolas to increase in size permanently after having a child. I do not know of a non-surgical way to reduce the size of the areolas but the swelling of the breasts would likely make the areolas larger. I'm not sure why the breasts should be swelling. The first thing you should check is that the bra is fitting properly, i.e., that it is not too small or otherwise constricting venous blood flow. Discussing your concerns with your fiance or someone else might help you to have more confidence in your relationship with your fiance. If this is something that would affect his feelings for you, do you really want to marry him?


Sores on breasts

I have sores on my breasts. What could this be?

The inflammatory skin diseases of the breast that come to mind are: Hidradenitis suppurativa and Fox-Fordyce disease. These are apocrine sweat gland diseases, characterized by chronic and recurrent forms, with frequently unsatisfactory management and physical discomfort. Paget's disease of the breast is another skin condition. I think a dermatologist is a good next choice. If it turns out to be Paget's disease, you may have to return to the breast surgeon for reevaluation because it can be associated with underlying malignancy.


Breasts Sizes

I am a 16 year old girl who suffers from having a right breast significantly smaller than the left. In fact, one side fits into a 36 B and the other is more of an A. It's very uncomfortable and embarrassing for me. Is there any hope of my breasts straightening out in the future or is my only hope cosmetic surgery?

Breast asymmetry of one cup size is fairly common. At age 16 there may still be some more equalization of the size. After about age 18-20 there will be little change until pregnancy. If you are not having regular menses, i.e., anovulation, you might consider birth control pills since the breasts may still be sensitive to estrogen at this time. If you are having regular ovulation, pills will not make much change.


Abnormal adolescent breast growth

I have a 14 year old daughter whose breasts are becoming extremely large to the extent she is having trouble finding clothes to fit. Her growth started a month before her 13th birthday and was very rapid. The growth has slowed down now but has not stopped. Although larger breasts are common in our family, our doctor thinks this may be 'gigantomastia' or 'virginal hypertrophy'. My daughter will be 15 in three months and we would both like to know when to expect this growth to end and what treatment (besides surgery) can be used.

Virginal hypertrophy of the breasts is of concern because it is impossible to tell when the growth is going to stop. If you knew is was going to stop soon, you would not do anything more at this time. Unfortunately you do not know nor does anyone.

This condition is thought to be due to sensitivity (possibly genetic or congenital) of the breasts to estrogen. Some doctors who specialize in teens have used high dose progesterone like Depoprovera in an effort to counteract the estrogen. As far as I am aware this is a theoretical treatment and there are no studies to support it but it may be worth a try. You may want to talk to your doctor about this or ask for a referral for your daughter to an adolescent gynecology specialist.


Can I increase breast size?

I am "flat chested." Are there any exercises I can do or is there anything I can do to increase the size of my breasts besides having implants which cost more money than I can afford or by taking expensive pills?

Upper body exercises will increase chest muscles but may also decrease fat in the breast which is the main source of breast size. The only way to actually increase the size of the breasts is usually to gain weight (fat deposition). Some women do more lower body exercises hoping that the extra fat will be deposited in the upper body. Some women wear constant spandex type of lower body garments to "redirect" fat deposition to the upper body. I doubt that either works. Estrogen sometimes enhances breast fat deposition and is probably more moderately priced that many things you see advertised. An herb, Saw palmetto, is touted to help increase breast size but as far as I know it is not very successful. It will cause some breast stimulation in males (gynecomastia) due to estrogen or anti-testosterone content.


Swelling in arm pit

Two weeks ago I discovered a swelling in my arm pit. It seems to go down at night and then returns during the course of the day. I thought at first that I had exercised too much, but it has not gone away. Do you have any idea what it could be?

The only two structures in the axilla likely to swell are lymph nodes and sweat glands. Rarely there can be some breast glandular tissue there. You will need an exam by your physician to see what it might be.


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