Breast hypertrophy, also called macromastia and gigantomastia, is the rapid and disproportionate growth of one or both breasts compared with the rest of the body. In fact, a person with the disorder may see her cup size increase in a matter of days. Some definitions of the disorder require that the breasts exceed a weight of about 1.3 pounds (600 grams). Other definitions require the presence of ulcers to differentiate the disorder from less severe cases of breast enlargement. In rare cases, the breast may shrink back down to regular size, but often, doctors may deem it necessary to perform a breast reduction surgery or other treatment methods to help manage the condition.
Some women affected by breast hypertrophy can suffer debilitating pain. Cases vary, but there have been instances of a single breast weighing as much as 20 pounds (about 9.1 kg). That much weight on the front of a woman's body can cause back pain and neck pain, as well as posture and skeletal problems. Other symptoms caused by this condition include rashes, ulcers, and bleeding skin. Grooves in the shoulders may also result as the woman's bra strap digs into her back, and numbing of the two small fingers may also occur as the strap pinches the nerves that supply feeling to that part of the hand.
Hormones may be a contributing factor to breast hypertrophy. There are two stages in a woman's life where hormones may play a role in the disorder: puberty and pregnancy. Virginal breast hypertrophy, also called juvenile breast hypertrophy, occurs during the hormone surge at puberty. When it occurs during pregnancy, it is called gravid breast hypertrophy. In some cases, breast growth stabilizes when the hormones do, and a doctor can then perform a breast reduction surgery to bring the breasts back down to a more manageable size.
Some of the different treatments available include hormone therapy, medication, and steroids. For a child with juvenile breast hypertrophy, some treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy, may not be the best choice because of possible side effects. Other treatments, such as breast reduction surgery, may have to wait until hormone levels and breast growth have stabilized. In cases where breasts continue to grow after reduction surgery, surgeons may opt to remove the entire breast in a surgery called a full mastectomy. After the operation, the surgeon may be able to reconstruct the breast to produce a more natural appearance.