Tubular breast syndrome

Updated March 21, 2017

Having an abnormal breast shape is extremely disconcerting for any woman, not to mention potentially embarrassing. Tubular Breast Syndrome, also called Tuberous Breast Deformity, is a condition that can drastically affect your self-confidence and body image. The syndrome is generally characterised by small, cylinder-shaped breasts with overstretched areolas. Correcting the condition varies depending on severity.

The Facts

Tubular breast syndrome is a congenital deformity of the breast that manifests at the onset of puberty. The condition is essentially caused by the incomplete development of the breast's mammary gland. Because tubular breasts are relatively rare, information about the condition is not widely available and no uniform agreement even exists on the syndrome's title, according to Dr. Walter Erhardt, past public education chair with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Tubular Breast Syndrome is frequently referred to as "constricted" or "oval" breasts.


Appearance of tubular breasts ranges broadly from minor breast constriction to severe deformity. However, most tubular breasts have the same main characteristics including a higher breast crease. Distance between the fold of the nipple is also shorter, and instead of a normal round shape, the breast is narrower. According to a November 2000 article in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the form often resembles an "hourglass" shape. Besides large, fleshy areolas, most tuberous breasts also sit too far apart, resulting in unnaturally wide cleavage.


According to the medical textbook, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the Breast, the severity of the condition is classified into three primary grades. A grade 1 deformity affects the middle portion of the breast. A grade 2 affects the lower portion of the breast, and the highest degree of severity, a Grade 3, affects the entire breast.


No standard procedure for surgical correction exists when it comes to correcting Tubular Breast Syndrome. Suitable procedures depend on each individual case. In the majority of cases, says Erhardt, surgery begins with a series of radial cuts in the breast. The incisions give the area a chance to release its constriction or unfold. Surgeons then lower the fold and reduce the size of the nipple area. Often, implants must be used if not enough breast tissue exists to spread across the chest wall.


Because of the serious developmental and psychological implications for young women suffering from tubular breasts, addressing corrective surgery options while the patient is in her early teen years is generally acceptable, according to Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the Breast. As a woman further develops or gives birth, Erhardt adds that corrective surgery alternatives might need to be readdressed in later years. Aesthetic surgery also does not necessarily mean breast function can be corrected, if problematic. Tubular breasts could affect breastfeeding and milk production, depending on condition severity.

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About the Author

Alicia Gallegos is a journalist in northwestern Indiana. She previously wrote for the "American Medical News, "a Chicago-based health newspaper published by the American Medical Association. She began her career at the South Bend Tribune, where she covered public safety, courts, food safety, education and health care.