I’ve seen postings recently in a feminist forum about tuberous breasts, and whether one would be justified in having plastic surgery to improve them. The woman who initiated the discussion said she wanted to have the procedure to fix her tubular breasts, but felt bad about it. As a feminist, she said she felt “angry” that she was longing for surgery and even that she “wanted to die at the thought.”
If there ever were a condition that might drive a woman who thinks that “plastic surgery, on the whole, is ridiculous” to go under the knife, tuberous breasts would be a good candidate. Named for the fact that the breasts resemble tubers in shape, tuberous breasts (sometimes called “tubular breasts”) are formed when the base of the breast is smaller than usual. This constricted circumference causes the breast tissue to push forward and sometimes down, exacerbated by the fact that the inframammary fold (where the breast attaches to the chest wall) is often higher than normal.
Women with tuberous breasts usually have large areolas as well. When all these factors are present, it’s easy to see why one of the nicknames for this condition is “Snoopy breasts.” Although you may consider the famous Beagle adorable, you probably don’t want to have breasts that remind you of his nose.
In most cases, to create breasts that are more pleasing in appearance requires a bit more work than simply inserting implants. Plastic surgeons often need to make internal incisions to release constricting tissue and expand the base width of the breast. The breast pocket may need enlarging to accept an appropriate implant. Because women with tuberous breasts often have scant breast tissue, it’s often best to place implants below the chest muscle for a natural looking result. For this group of patients, silicone gel breast implants should be considered, as they tend to hold their shape well.
The feminist whose posting I read said that her tuberous breasts were “self esteem shattering” and that she always kept her bra on while having sex. In my view, those feelings are reason enough to feel ok about considering plastic surgery, regardless of which body part is the culprit and how “cosmetic” the procedure might be. In fact, body image is the key. If you happen to have tuberous breasts and aren’t bothered by them, great.
But this woman, who obviously does suffer significant embarrassment, can take comfort in the fact that tuberous breasts are considered to be a true deformity. Dictionaries define “deformity” as a part of the body that’s abnormally formed, “abnormal” meaning not usual or typical, deviating from what’s considered standard. What would you do if you were born with a cleft palate? Webbed fingers? You’d probably have surgery to fix the condition. And you’d probably feel a great sense of relief that you took the plunge.
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Hi, this is Cathy, writing back to Bob1 and Susan.
Thank you both so much for commenting on the post. It's amazing to me that it continues to generate interest after all this time. It makes this kind of writing assignment meaningful for me! I am so happy the piece motivated you to reply.
I have been writing about plastic surgery for years, for no other reason than I was hired by a web marketing company whose clients were mainly in the field. Over time I have learned so much about the various procedures and about the struggles people go through. I understand both sides of the coin--being sort of "against" plastic surgery because we should all be content with what Mother Nature gave us, and feeling embarrassed and inferior in our media conscious society. I support whatever each individual chooses as the right path--whether they're bothered by their nose, their breasts (men and women) or extra skin after weight loss. Sometimes a surgical "fix" can make all the difference in a person's confidence, and they can just get on with life.
Bob1, one of my main clients today is a plastic surgeon who specializes in gynecomastia. So I've become a semi-expert on that condition too, oddly enough. His website (which I did not write) is gynecomastianewyork.com. Believe it or not, I have written his blog for more than five years, and it's there on the site too. ( I would never have believed I could write about this one subject for so long!) You might want to check out the site, not to encourage you to have surgery but because there's lots of different info there. And if you haven't yet visited, you might also look at gynecomastia.org. There's a whole community of guys with moobs there, some electing surgery, some not. In other words, you're far from alone.
Best of luck to you, Bob1, and thanks again to both of you. You made my day!
CathySeptember 8, 2016 - 8:11am
Cathy, I'm Bob1 and this is a well written article, but here's my two cents worth is....If others are saying accept yourself and be happy....that's a load of hoopla. We all are not happy with certain parts of our bodies, and I am well within that part too. One person commented about "tuberous breast deformity", which is a condition that is one of many that we must endure in life. I am no exception. I have a condition called "gynecomastia", and choose to remain clothed topside because of the "other" peoples comments and scorn. And as in the article, I too have kept my shirt on during sex. Thanks to past medications, the uneven growth is not reversible. During the last few years I have now come to terms with this condition, which is fixable through expensive surgery. Not having the money for reduction surgery which is more costly than actual breast implants, I have nearly made a decision to do breast implants (augmentation). Why you may ask? I have a noticeable chest, so why not finish the look (one A cup the other B cup), even them out. I cannot wear men's shirts...too tight fitting and the larger size hangs sloppily from my shoulders, so I wear women's shirts which are made for the reason. I have tried lightly padded bras, but summertime is just too hot and sticky. So please don't forget that other men are out there too with this situation. And other women are just as mean with comments about a man's chest too. Some of us are not made of grit and steel, we have feelings too. Sorry for the long winded post...hope everyone has a great day.September 7, 2016 - 8:52pm
Cathy, I just want to thank you so much for this article! I think it's sad that some people don't see the compassion behind it. Accepting yourself as you are and choosing to be happy with your shape doesn't mean others should be judged for struggling and trying something different to make their life easier. All the power to those that are happy with themselves! But we all have different needs and paths.March 17, 2016 - 9:08pm
To the person saying that you calling this a deformity could hurt peoples' self esteem, and how unempowering this is, I completely disagree. This is a medically recognized deformity, and there's plenty of clinical, cold literature out there for people to read about it. It impacts the lives of those who live with it, some more than others, and yet because it's an embarrassing topic there's so little real discussion about it.. Leaving many to feel very alone.
I too grew up confused about why my breasts didn't look like everyone else's, asymmetrical (one A cup, one B cup), big puffy areolas, far apart. Of course I thought they looked ugly, but worse to me were the heavily padded bras required to hide them. No bras fit properly, I avoided swimsuits/water like the plague, gave up on lots of styles of clothes I'd love to wear but couldn't, etc. None of my boyfriends ever had a problem with them, they just thought they were small but said they loved them. My long term ex forbade me from plastic surgery, when I mentioned the thought of it. At the time I just tried to reinforce accepting myself and suffered the horribly uncomfortable bras. When I was in my mid-20's I discovered the name for this, tuberous breast deformity. I'll admit I was devastated to associate the word 'deformity' with myself, yet also in a way, a bit relieved to understand there was a legitimate reason for my struggles.
Fastforward to my 30's... Pursued fat grafting. I chose not to alter the areolas (For myself, it was a balance of accepting myself and correcting the parts that hindered my life), but my wonderful Dr fixed the asymmetry, and filled out the shape. They're still not "perfect" by typical societal standards but I can wear soft, un-padded bras (AH SO COMFY!!) and don't feel so self conscious, and THAT means the world to me in going through my day.
I was originally ideologically against the idea of plastic surgery (In the idealistic 'everyone's perfect the way they are' way) so the moral struggle was definitely real. But just having someone speak about this with compassion and understanding the turmoil that TBD can inflict in some peoples' lives... Makes it easier to let go of some of the struggles with residual shame, and makes one feel so much less alone. So again, thank you!
This is Cathy, thanking YOU taking the time to write! The path you chose for yourself sounds like the perfect strategy for your unique needs. Congrats for researching, being open and having the courage to forge ahead.
It has been a long time since I wrote for Empowher last, still longer since I wrote this particular piece. I'm glad it is still prompting people to comment.
All the best to you!March 18, 2016 - 10:49am
Snoopy breast is NOT the same as tuberous breasts...April 12, 2015 - 9:05pm
Dear Anonymous (the 2/25 post):
Why don't you have a consultation with another plastic surgeon? Make sure you find one who has a lot of experience with tuberous breasts (their website should tell you). Perhaps you might get a better offer from a different doctor. Don't go cut-rate, though...make sure he/she is board certified with great credentials.
If you don't (or can't) have surgery, please know that breasts come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, and most men (and women) do not require their partner to have perfect, round 36 C cups. If you're not afraid of a little raunchiness, google terms like "puffy nipples" and you'll see people displaying "non perfect" breasts with pride.
I wrote the initial article and I still believe that if tuberous breasts are a real obstacle to a person's quality of life (or a misshapen nose, or saggy tummy skin, or whatever), they should save money, have cosmetic surgery and get on with things. But if you don't, do not let tuberous breasts ruin your self-esteem.
--CathyFebruary 25, 2015 - 6:42pm
So I just went to a consultation today to see about getting a breast augmentation. I've always known my breasts were small and my nipple were puffy but I had no idea that it was due to a deformity until today (by the way I'm 30 years old) I am so down and bummed and embarrassed now. I've always said that I was going to get a breast augmentation and when I finally have the money together, I find out that because of the tuberous breast it's going to cost an additional $8,000. I feel like my dreams have been crushed! Anyway this just sucks!!!February 25, 2015 - 4:08pm
I'm 17 and slowly getting used to my tuberous breasts. I felt quite self conscious about them for a time, but knowing other women have this problem too has made me feel less of a freak. Now I'm even surprised I used to think about them this way, and nobody who's seen them, man or woman, has ever complained in any way. And even if they've scared anyone off (I dunno, no way to tell really), I can only feel relieved that they saved me from a relationship with a complete asshole.February 9, 2015 - 10:18am
You're not alone, sisters. I find comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in this struggle. But you know what? I don't think we should see it as a struggle. If I had the money I know I would highly consider correcting my TBD, but I like to think I'd choose to skip the surgery and love my breasts regardless. I once heard someone say that when you judge the creation you also judge the Creator. My God doesn't make mistakes. I'll eventually get over myself and I hope that instead of losing sleeping over the shape of my breasts I'll be kept awake by the work that needs to be done to make this cruel, cold world a better place.November 29, 2014 - 10:05pm
I hate my tubular breast, however I have to disagree with you completely on a comment you made in your article.October 27, 2014 - 4:26pm
Tubular Breast can not be compared to a cleft palate or webbed fingers because it does not hinder you from doing day to day task.
This is why many health insurance companies do not cover breast augmentation for tubular breast.