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Surgery Can Help Repair the Social and Physical Impacts of Breast Asymmetry

NEW YORK, Sept. 15 -- The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) announced today that teens with asymmetrical or unevenly shaped breasts should be aware that their breasts can be corrected using common surgical procedures. A review of some of the key considerations for successfully treating unevenly shaped breasts is published in the September/October 2006 issue of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the Society's official peer-reviewed journal.

"What we are talking about are very obvious problems with breast growth or development, not the normal asymmetry that everyone has. This condition is not uncommon, but it can feel very devastating," said Ann F. Reilley, MD, a board- certified plastic surgeon in Baton Rouge, LA, who authored the article. "A teen or young woman with severely asymmetric breasts is likely to be profoundly self-conscious. For such a young woman, surgical intervention can be life changing. This not about getting Baywatch breasts. It is about buying a bra or a prom dress without it being an issue."

Breast asymmetry may occur because of problems with breast growth and development or through acquired conditions, such as trauma from tumors, infection, or burns. Asymmetry can take several forms including the absence of breast structures (e.g., total absence of the breast), excess structures (e.g., supernumary nipples), variations in size, and variations in shape on one or both sides of the body. These disturbances may involve the nipple areolar complex, the breast mound, or both. In the majority of patients, the exact cause is unknown.

With standard procedures we can successfully treat teens whose breast developed abnormally as well as those who have changes following breastfeeding or trauma. For women who wish to have children, there are procedures which will preserve their ability to breastfeed, said Foad Nahai, M.D., Chair of the Aesthetic Society's Breast Surgery Committee. It is possible that surgery must be performed on both breasts, not just one. If similar procedures are performed on both breasts, the likelihood of symmetry is greatly increased.

Although many physicians advise waiting until breast growth is fully complete, earlier intervention may be appropriate in some cases, particularly in teens in whom asymmetry is very noticeable, or in those who become depressed or socially withdrawn because of their condition. As with any patient, the young woman should appreciate the benefits and limitations of the proposed surgery, and have realistic expectations.
"Breast asymmetry impacts patients physically, psychologically, and socially. Teens with unevenly shaped breasts often feel depressed. They may avoid social activities or their school performance may change for the worse," said Dr. Reilley. "We are fortunate to have the training and ability to perform what can be life-changing surgery on these young women."

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