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Journal Reports Case Study Of Woman With Giant Third Breast

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Justine Alford

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3477 Journal Reports Case Study Of Woman With Giant Third Breast
Hiremath et al., BMJ 2015

WARNING: Graphic (NSFW) images below.

If I told you that up to 6% of the female population have an extra breast, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Skepticism understood, but it’s true: Between 2% to 6% of women have what is termed “polymastia,” or an additional (accessory) breast. But that doesn’t mean that potentially hundreds of millions of women are walking around like something out of Busted’s “Year 3,000” video. They can range from tiny moles, lumps without nipples, to the rather disfiguring and uncomfortable. One such case was presented today in a case study from the BMJ Case Reports.


The report details a 41-year-old woman from India whose left breast had been swelling for the past decade, following her first pregnancy. Despite the severe disfigurement towards the end of this period, the woman decided not to seek medical attention and became socially withdrawn, fearing people’s reactions and stigma. The only reason she eventually went to the clinic was because she began to suffer "dragging" pain in her left shoulder and arm due to the heavy weight of the breast, study author Dr. Bharati Hiremath told IFLScience.

Photo credit: BMJ 2015

When she presented the enlarged breast to doctors, it was about three times the size of that on her right, and an examination revealed a small extra nipple – in the absence of such, accessory breasts can be difficult to identify. When the medical team performed an ultrasound scan they found a large tissue mass that was similar in consistency to the left breast but distinct from it.

"This [case] was particularly extraordinary and is probably the first reported case of a giant accessory breast in this location," said Hiremath. 


In the absence of any signs of cancer, the woman underwent a mastectomy to remove the accessory breast along with its nipple, which was complete with an areola. According to Hiremath, the surgery took roughly two hours and the removed accessory breast weighed about 700 grams (1.5 pounds). 

Photo credit: BMJ 2015

Three days later, she was released and, six months on, she had no further symptoms and reported that she was happy.

Photo credit: BMJ 2015


Of course, it’s not just females who can be affected by this congenital (present from birth) condition – between 1% and 3% of males also have it, and about a third of all people with polymastia have more than one area of extra tissue growth. Not all ethnicities seem to be affected equally, though, with occurrence rates varying significantly between populations. In Caucasians, for example, only about 0.6% of individuals are afflicted, whereas it’s found in roughly 5% of Japanese females.

Such extra tissue is normally found around the milk line – tissue that can turn into breasts – which extends all the way down to the groin, but it can also appear on the back, thigh, buttock, face and even ear. Weirdly, some older studies have found associations between extra nipples and kidney anomalies, although there’s been a lack of recent data to support this. 


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