Is It Just Me? tackles those quirky health questions that make their way into group chats and late-night Google searches. Why do I have toe hair? Why are video games so calming? Send your questions to NervousGoogler@health.com, and we'll get the experts on it. Chances are you're not alone.
Is it just me, or are my boobs two different sizes? Am I abnormal? Do I have breast cancer?!
Boobs didn’t happen to me overnight. Maybe you were lucky enough to sprout yours on the eve of the big middle-school dance, but mine came in gradually. And lopsided, right from the very beginning. It’s noticeable enough that as a tween—too young yet to Google—I wrote in my diary that I wished my right boob would grow.
In the name of #bodypos, I no longer really care if she ever catches up to her big left sister. But I do wonder if I should worry about her. OK, not that much, since they both fit rather nicely into a B cup. But, like, still: Why? And does anyone else have this issue?
Maybe I’d know the answer if I’d seen more breasts. Or, frankly, if I had found a natural way to slip this question into conversation over brunch with some friends. Rather than interrupt anyone’s love affair with avocado toast, I decided to ask people who have dedicated their lives to boobs.
Norman M. Rowe, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon with Rowe Plastic Surgery, assures me he has seen thousands. And whether those breasts and the women they belong to are seeking augmentations, reductions, or lifts, he does a complete workup, measuring size, distance between, nipple height, areola diameter, and more “to the millimeter—and patients are never exactly symmetric,” he says.
Most likely, that’s just the way your body is. Boobs go through several different stages of development, explains Health Advisory Board member Christine Greves, MD, ob-gyn at the Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, as they—and we—become sexually mature around puberty. “During development, there is a chance they will have assymetry,” Dr. Greves says, plain and simple.
Plenty of other body parts don’t exactly match, Dr. Rowe points out. Are your feet really both a size 8? Doesn’t that one nostril flare just a bit more than the other? My eyes are different sizes (is that correlated with breast size?!), for example. “There’s actually very little symmetry in the body,” according to Dr. Rowe (and my mirror).
You already know this, but breasts change when your hormones change. Puberty, pregnancy, menopause, no surprises here. Usually both boobs grow together and there’s nothing to write in your diary about. But it’s possible, Dr. Rowe says, that one boob may be #blessed with more hormone receptors inside, which could give it a natural size advantage when hormonal changes make boobs swell. (By the way, if you feel extra lopsided before your period, you can expect to feel the same when you’re expecting, he says. Joy.)
There are some obvious scenarios in which boobs don’t grow together. Childhood chest injuries—say a burn or heart surgery—might stunt breast development on one side. Rib cage abnormalities, scoliosis, and even cysts could all make your breasts appear to be different sizes, Dr. Greves says. Conditions you’re born with—Poland syndrome, amastia, tuberous breasts, don’t Google them—can result in one boob being smaller, differently shaped, or missing altogether, Dr. Rowe explains. But you’d know if these things had happened to you.
For most of us worrying about our mismatched set of sweater puppies? There’s no need to worry. Even if yours differ by a cup size, “these are just variants of normal,” says chief of breast surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center Lisa Newman, MD. While it might make bra shopping a pain (not that anyone really loves it), you can probably leave your asymmetric boobs be. Or, ya know, pad one side of your bra (or buy a special one for asymmetrical boobs—yep, they exist!).
I’m all for embracing uneven boobs, but if you’re freaked out by them, surgery’s totally an option too. “As a plastic surgeon, I try to create symmetry, but there is no real symmetry out there,” Dr. Rowe assures me. “I tell my patients all the time: Your breasts are sisters, not twins. I have patients come in and theirs are like distant cousins. I’m trying for twins, but sisters are better than cousins.”
Refiguring your mammary family tree might require reduction, an implant, or both—a procedure Dr. Rowe recently performed on a woman who was a DDD on one side and a B on the other. (Whut, I said, to which he replied that this is very, very rare.)
Not rare, in Dr. Rowe’s experience, is your left side being your bigger side, just like me. “I have no scientific basis for this, but anecdotally, the left side is usually a bit bigger and a bit lower,” Dr. Rowe says. And please remember he has seen thousands of breasts.
When he first noticed this (anecdotal) trend, he theorized it had to do with breastfeeding. Most of us are right-handed: You hold the bottle in your right hand while cradling your little nugget in your left, and when your right arm gets tired the bottle’s empty, you end up breastfeeding from the left side. The more suckling, the more eventual drooping (rude)—or so he thought. “Then I started to notice the left breast was bigger in some patients prior to them having babies, so that theory went out the window.”
His latest hypothesis? Your heart’s on your left side, and blood vessels on your left side are everrrr so slightly larger—which in theory could mean more nourishment and heft to your left breast. “You wonder what I sit up at night thinking about!” Dr. Rowe says. Same, Dr. Rowe, same.
What’s not normal, Dr. Newman cautions, is differences in size that come out of nowhere. One smaller boob that stays that way, we’ve all been there. Any scary-fast changes in the shape, size, feel, color, or skin of your breast that weren’t there before, however, are worth discussing with a doctor—and not one you find on the internet.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter