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Overview

Tubular (tuberous) breasts is the medical term given to a condition that is characterized by breast tissue where the cells don't divide and develop properly during puberty. The condition is also referred to as breast hypoplasia.

Women with tubular breasts do not have an increased risk of developing any life-threatening conditions linked to breast tissue but they may seek ways to correct the problem. The main issues linked to tubular breasts are that they may affect one's self-confidence and it may interfere with breastfeeding.

Symptoms and Signs

The diagnosis of tubular breasts is made on clinical examination of the affected individual and the condition is confirmed based on the appearance of the breasts.

This may seem to be a subjective decision but the common characteristic among such breasts is that they lack tissue in both the horizontal and vertical directions.

The following findings are made in patients with tubular breasts:

  • They tend to have a gap of about four centimetres between them.
  • The areas of tissue that surround the nipples seem to be constricted.
  • There is enlargement of the dark area of the areola.
  • The breasts may seem to be asymmetrical with one appearing larger than the other.
  • The shape of the breasts may appear to be pointed, oval, or square-shaped instead of round.

Causes

The exact cause of tubular breasts is not clearly understood but one theory is that there may be a developmental issue that occurs to the fetus while in the uterus.

The condition doesn't become clear until the affected individual goes through puberty when breast tissue starts to develop due to hormonal changes that occur during this developmental phase.

Tubular breasts will occur when there is not enough breast tissue that develops during puberty. The band of tissue that connects the areola to the rest of the breast doesn't develop properly and this results in the breasts appearing to sag.

Management

The only medical treatment for tubular breasts currently is plastic or cosmetic surgery in the form of breast augmentation surgery.

Augmentation surgery for tubular breasts will not fully modify the breasts but the procedure will help correct most of the issue and this tends to improve the self-confidence and self-image of the affected patient.

Patients with tubular breasts should consult with board-certified cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons who are familiar with the condition and who have performed such surgeries. The specialist surgeon will consult with the patient and examine them to identify the problem, listen to their needs, and recommend the correct procedure.

Tubular breast correction is usually performed in two steps, but there are patients who may only need one of the procedures.

The surgery will be performed in a hospital with the following steps:

  • The patient will be given a general anaesthetic to be put to sleep for the procedure.
  • The plastic surgeon will make a small incision in the skin of the breast.
  • The constricted breast tissue will then be released.
  • A breast implant or tissue expander will be placed to give the breasts an appropriate shape and appearance.

If a tissue expander was placed, a follow-up procedure needs to be performed where the product is removed and a breast implant will take its place.

The appearance and position of the nipples may also be modified in a procedure known as a mastopexy.

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