Tubular Breasts

Tubular breasts are breasts that don’t have a round shape. This happens when your breast tissue doesn’t grow as it should during puberty. You may have a gap between your breasts, oval-shaped breasts or nipples that point down. Tubular breasts are harmless. You may choose to undergo breast augmentation surgery if you don’t like how they look.

Overview

What are tubular breasts?

Tubular breasts occur when your breast tissue doesn’t grow as expected during puberty. Tubular breasts cause a lack of volume that makes your breasts take on an irregular shape that’s not round. You may have larger areolas (the dark skin around your nipple) and nipples that point downward. In addition, it’s common to have a gap between your breasts.

Tubular breasts aren’t harmful to your body or a sign that something’s wrong. However, they may make it difficult for birthing parents to breastfeed (chestfeed) after having a child. 

The look and shape of your breasts may cause low self-esteem or have an emotional impact on how you feel about your body. Because of this, some people choose to undergo breast augmentation surgery to cosmetically reshape their breasts. 

Your healthcare provider may refer to tubular breasts as breast hypoplasia or tuberous breasts.

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How common are tubular breasts?

The exact rate of occurrence is unknown. The condition may be fairly common, but many cases are undiagnosed or are only diagnosed if someone pursues breast augmentation surgery. While tubular breasts aren’t the only reason why people undergo breast augmentation surgery, breast augmentation surgery is common. There were approximately 193,073 of these procedures performed in 2020. Breast augmentation is the fifth most common cosmetic surgery procedure in the United States.

Symptoms and Causes

What do tubular breasts look like?

Features of tubular breasts could include:

  • A gap larger than 1.5 inches between your breasts.
  • Large areolas.
  • Narrow base of your breasts.
  • Nipples point downward.
  • Shorter-than-average distance between your nipple and the fold under your breast
  • Breasts aren’t round; they’re tube-like, oval or triangular.
  • Breasts are asymmetrical.
  • Breasts lack volume and are droopy.

All tubular breasts look different from one another. This condition may affect one breast or both. These features won’t appear until puberty.

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What causes tubular breasts?

Connective tissue that doesn’t form as it should during puberty causes tubular breasts. The reason why this occurs is unknown. Studies suggest it could be from a hormone imbalance during puberty or from a genetic change that happens during fetal development. Research is ongoing to learn more.

Breast development occurs slowly during puberty for people diagnosed with tubular breasts. As a result, tubular breasts only have time to partially develop or are unable to develop completely as expected.

In contrast, people who don’t have tubular breasts may experience rapid growth changes to their breasts during puberty.

What are the risk factors for tubular breasts?

Tubular breasts can affect anyone. Studies are ongoing to learn more about what causes this condition, but some studies found it has a genetic origin. It affects all genders and sexes. The condition isn’t apparent until puberty begins.

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What are the complications of tubular breasts?

Tubular breasts can make breastfeeding (chestfeeding) difficult because your milk supply may be lower than normal.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are tubular breasts diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose tubular breasts after a physical exam. The size and shape of your breasts indicate whether or not you have the condition. You may not seek a diagnosis, as this condition isn’t dangerous. Most people with tubular breasts only get a diagnosis if they plan on undergoing breast augmentation surgery.

Management and Treatment

How are tubular breasts treated?

Tubular breasts don’t require treatment. However, you may choose to undergo cosmetic surgery if you want to change the way your breasts look. A plastic surgeon may recommend breast augmentation surgery to add volume and reshape your breasts to meet your goals. They may add volume by:

  • Redistributing existing tissue.
  • Moving fat from another part of your body to your breast (fat transfer).
  • Adding implants.
  • Or a combination of these procedures.

Your plastic surgeon will make a treatment recommendation during a consultation. They’ll assess your overall health, let you know about the possible side effects and recommend a plan for surgery. If you have any questions about the procedure, the consultation is a great time to ask them.

Are there side effects of the treatment?

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with breast augmentation. A surgeon will discuss these risks to help you understand what could happen. Possible risks could include:

  • Bleeding.
  • Scarring.
  • Bruising.
  • Swelling.
  • Problems with surgical site healing or an infection.
  • Pain or a sore feeling as you heal.
  • Implants and/or breasts sagging over time.
  • Risks associated with breast implants, which your surgeon will explain.

Prevention

How can I prevent tubular breasts?

As research is still ongoing to learn more about the causes of tubular breasts, there’s no way to prevent them.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have tubular breasts?

Tubular breasts become apparent during puberty. The condition is harmless and only affects you cosmetically. Treatment isn’t necessary. You may choose to get breast augmentation surgery to adjust the way your breasts look or to reach your personal cosmetic goals. If the shape of your breasts makes you feel uncomfortable or affects your self-esteem, you may want to talk with a mental health professional who can help you navigate your feelings about your body.

Living With

When should I see a healthcare provider?

You don’t need to visit a healthcare provider for tubular breasts. But if you’d like to change the way your breasts look, visit a plastic surgeon. They can offer treatment options to help your breasts look the way you envision them.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • Do I have tubular breasts?
  • Would I benefit from a breast augmentation, a breast lift or both?
  • What type of breast surgery do you recommend?
  • What are the possible side effects of breast surgery?
  • How long will it take to recover from surgery?

Additional Common Questions

Is tubular breast carcinoma caused by tubular breasts?

No. Tubular breast carcinoma or tubular breast cancer is a type of invasive breast cancer that gets its name from the tube-like shape of the tumor that develops in your breast. The condition isn’t the result of having tubular breasts. Tubular carcinoma can have a positive outcome, as it’s easily treatable with an early diagnosis. 

What’s the best type of bra for tubular breasts?

Every person who wears a bra has their own preference on what’s most comfortable to wear. There isn’t a specific type of bra designed for tubular breasts. Some common types of bras that may be more form-fitting to tubular breasts could include:

  • Wireless bras.
  • Bandeau bras or a bralette.
  • A padded bra.
  • Half-cup bras.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Tubular breasts may look different, but they aren’t a sign that anything’s wrong. Your breast tissue simply didn’t have the instructions it needed to grow as expected. You don’t need to treat tubular breasts, but you may consider plastic surgery if you want to change how your breasts look. If you choose to undergo surgery, make sure you’re making the decision for yourself and aren’t changing your body because of pressure from someone else.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/25/2023.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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