Polymastia, sometimes better known as accessory breasts, is a health condition where the person afflicted has extra breasts. The extra breast can be in various forms, from a fully functional breast with a normal appearance to a breast that does not lactate or have an areola. Both men and women can have accessory breasts, but the problem is more commonly observed in women. Accessory nipples or breasts have been reported on many areas of the body, including the high, underarm, and back. The condition is not rare; in fact, up to six percent of the population has an extra breast, but doctors frequently misdiagnose the condition as a benign tumor.
An accessory breast is sometimes fully functional and capable of producing milk. In most cases, however, the breast is mostly just a nipple or lump. There is no known limit on the amount of extra nipples or breasts that can develop on the human body. Some women have experienced as many as eight nipples in addition to the standard two.
While more commonly seen in women, accessory breasts can develop and become fully functional or appear as a normal breast on men. For example, a man was once found to have a fully formed breast on the back of his leg. He described it as a fatty tumor that he had had for most of his life. Some doctors report that men find the development of accessory breasts emasculating. In many cases, the condition does not seem genetic, but some people report having accessory breasts in multiple generations of the same family.
It is common for extra breasts to develop in the underarm area, but they can also appear in the groin area, legs, and feet. Some areas of the body are less likely to develop accessory breasts than others. Most people develop extra breasts in areas where it is easy to hide, which was important in earlier times when extra accessories were seen as a sign of evil. Even in modern times accessory nipples or breasts can have stigma associated with them, especially when men have extra, normal-looking breasts.
Sometimes doctors misdiagnose extra breasts without nipples or areola as tumors. People who have accessory breasts can mistake them for tumors, acne or moles. The vast majority of people who are diagnosed with accessory breasts opt to get them removed. Some people, including celebrities, have come forward to say they have extra nipples or breasts, and they do not plan on removing them.