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Is Breast Asymmetry Linked to Breast Cancer?

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Breast asymmetry refers to when one breast is a different size or shape than the other. A mammogram or breast cancer screening may show asymmetrical breast size or density. What does this mean for a woman’s health?

Most women’s breasts are slightly different in size, shape, and position. Uneven breasts or nipples are not usually a cause for concern.

However, breast tissue or breast density that is significantly uneven has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Regular mammograms can test for abnormalities or changes in breast tissue.

In this article, we look at the causes and diagnosis of asymmetrical breasts, what is normal, and when to see a doctor. We also discuss mammogram results related to asymmetrical breasts and what they mean.

 

Are asymmetrical breasts normal?

Breast asymmetry is normal for women in the majority of cases.

In most cases, breast asymmetry is perfectly normal. In fact, the two sides of the whole body might be slightly different, though any asymmetry may be more noticeable in the breasts.

However, if a person notices a change in the size or shape of one breast, they should see a doctor to find out the cause.

A significant difference in size or shape between the breasts is less common. This does not always cause medical problems, but a doctor can advise on this.

Is breast asymmetry a sign of cancer?

Uneven breasts are not usually a cause for concern. However, it is essential to have regular mammograms to ensure that any breast abnormalities are identified early.

Research from 2015 found that women whose breasts vary in size by over 20 percent may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Any unusual changes in the breast should be checked by a doctor. Changes to look out for include:

  • a lump in or around the breast
  • a lump under the arm
  • tissue that feels thick or firm near the breast or under the arm
  • a change in the size or shape of a breast
  • changes to the nipple, such as it starts to point inward
  • fluid or discharge from the nipple
  • red, itchy, or scaly skin around the breast
  • dimpled or puckered skin

 

Breast asymmetry and mammogram results

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast, which can test for any abnormalities, including lumps.

A mammogram might reveal that the breasts have different densities. This is referred to as breast asymmetry or focal asymmetry. Focal asymmetry does not always mean that breasts look or feel any different.

Although dense breast tissue is typically as healthy as less dense breast tissue, a mammogram result may suggest a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.

If breast asymmetry is new or changes, it is called developing asymmetry. If a mammogram screening identifies developing symmetry, there is a 12.8 percent chance that the person will develop breast cancer.

Other possible causes for an asymmetrical breast density mammogram result include:

  • normal variation in the composition of fats and fibrous tissue in the breasts
  • a cyst in one breast
  • fibrosis, or a large amount of fibrous tissue

According to the American Cancer Society, neither fibrosis or cysts affect a person’s subsequent risk of breast cancer.

Causes of breast asymmetry

During puberty, the left and right breast often develop at a slightly different pace. Breasts may appear asymmetrical until they have finished growing, or they may remain different shapes and sizes throughout a person’s life.

Hormonal changes can cause one or both breasts to change at any point in a person’s life, for example:

  • at specific points in the menstrual cycle
  • during or near menopause
  • during pregnancy or breast-feeding
  • when using a hormonal contraceptive, such as birth control pills

Breasts that change size or shape because of hormones often return to normal. Hormonal changes can also cause breasts to feel lumpy or lose fat and tissue. However, if these changes do not go away, it is a good idea to visit the doctor to who will check for any possible health problems.

Some underlying conditions that can affect breast size and shape include:

  • Tubular breasts: Also called breast hypoplasia, tubular breasts can develop in one or both breasts during puberty.
  • Amastia or amazia: A condition that causes problems in the development of breast tissue, the areola, or nipple.
  • Poland Syndrome: Where a chest muscle does not develop properly, which can affect the breast on one side of the body.

 

Further testing

Anyone who experiences developing asymmetry should visit the doctor for further tests. Tests will likely include another mammogram to check both breasts thoroughly. Ultrasound testing is an additional test to check for any signs of breast cancer.

A doctor may wish to follow up these tests with a biopsy. Tissue from the breast will be sent to a laboratory to check if it contains cancer cells. The tissue sample is usually removed using a fine needle.

Outlook

Breasts that are slightly different sizes do not pose a higher risk for breast cancer. If breasts are significantly different sizes, this may increase the risk.

Breast asymmetry is a medical term that refers to breasts that have different densities. This can be a risk factor for breast cancer.

Anyone who experiences unusual changes in the breast should see a doctor for an examination. Once someone reaches 40, it is essential that they do regular breast self-exams and have regular mammograms.

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Parents, Kids Spend More Time Discussing How To Use Mobile Technology Than Talking About Content

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ANN ARBOR—Most parents would agree that one of the of the biggest modern parenting challenges is monitoring a child’s online activity.

A new study appearing in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that parents spend more time talking with kids about the mechanics of using their mobile devices than they do about what their kids watch and download on those devices.

The findings came from a small, recent study of 75 children and their families, led by researcher Sarah Domoff, then a postdoctoral fellow at University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development. The children wore recording devices at home, which recorded talking, conversations or other sounds nearby, as well as audible screen media use.

Domoff, now an assistant professor at Central Michigan University, said the findings revealed some concerning trends in how families and children communicate about media today. Specifically, the researchers observed minimal conversation about the content of programming that children were watching.

Additionally, they learned that other family members appear to play an important role when content is discussed. Children––not parents––initiated most conversations about content, and older siblings played a much bigger role than parents in content mediation for younger siblings. Also, the study found that children as young as toddlers were exposed to multiple media sources at one time, or media multitasking.

Other findings include:

  • Negotiations and conflict are common among parents and children.
  • Parallel family media use is common, meaning different family members use their own devices at the same time.

“One of the most challenging aspects of parenting today is being aware of what children are exposed to online, particularly content delivered via mobile devices,” Domoff said.

“Thus, it is critical that parents utilize privacy settings and restrictions to protect children from certain content. Ideally, this would occur before the child received their own mobile device.”

Domoff recommends developing a family media plan. In 2016, The American Academy of Pediatrics released a tool that helps families set different goals and media use rules based on individual needs, she said.

It’s also troubling that some apps downloaded by children include advertising or request in-app purchases, she said. Parents can identify these apps by using Common Sense Media’s app review.

Parents can also recruit older children to help younger siblings make good content choices.

The study aimed to identify themes of parental mediation and family communication around mobile media devices. There’s a dearth of scientific data in this area compared to television and video games, but studies show that parental mediation leads to better outcomes for children.

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Internet Therapy Apps Reduce Depression Symptoms

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In a sweeping new study, Indiana University psychologists have found that a series of self-guided, internet-based therapy platforms effectively reduce depression.

The work, which reviewed 21 pre-existing studies with a total of 4,781 participants, was published in the November issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The study was led by Lorenzo Lorenzo-Luaces, an assistant professor of clinical psychology in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

In the past several years, many internet-based apps and websites have made claims to treat depression. The subjects of the IU study were specifically those applications that provide treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing thought patterns and behavior to alleviate symptoms of depression and other mental disorders.

Previous studies had examined the effectiveness of individual internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy apps, or iCBT, using a range of methods. Until this study, however, no review had examined whether the effects of these treatments were inflated by excluding patients with more severe depression or additional conditions such as anxiety or alcohol abuse.

“Before this study, I thought past studies were probably focused on people with very mild depression, those who did not have other mental health problems, and were at low risk for suicide,” Lorenzo-Luaces said.

“To my surprise, that was not the case. The science suggests that these apps and platforms can help a large number of people.”

For Lorenzo-Luaces, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy apps are an important new tool for addressing a major public health issue: that individuals with mental health disorders like depression far outnumber the mental health providers available to treat them.

“Close to one in four people meet the criteria for major depressive disorder,” he said.

“If you include people with minor depression or who have been depressed for a week or a month with a few symptoms, the number grows, exceeding the number of psychologists who can serve them.”

People with depression are also expensive for the health care system, he added.

“They tend to visit primary-care physicians more often than others,” Lorenzo-Luaces said.

“They have more medical problems, and their depression sometimes gets in the way of their taking their medication for other medical problems.”

By conducting a “meta-regression analysis” of 21 studies, Lorenzo-Luaces and collaborators decisively determined that internet-based therapy platforms effectively alleviate depression. A central question was determining whether previous studies distorted the strength of these systems’ effects by excluding people with severe depression.

The conclusion was that the apps worked in cases of mild, moderate and severe depression.

Many of the studies in the analysis compared use of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy apps to placement on a wait list for therapy or the use of a “fake app” that made weak recommendations to the user. In these cases, the iCBT apps worked significantly better.

“This is not to say that you should stop taking your medication and go to the nearest app store,” added Lorenzo-Luaces, who said both face-to-face therapy and antidepressants may still prove to be more effective than the iCBT apps alone.

“People tend to do better when they have a little bit of guidance,” he said. But he added that a 10- to 15-minute check-in may be sufficient for many people, freeing health care providers to see more patients.

App-based therapy also has an advantage in situations where access to face-to-face therapy is limited due to logistical barriers, such as long distances in rural areas or inflexible work schedules.

“ICBT apps take the methods we have learned and make them available to the many people who could benefit from them,” Lorenzo-Luaces said.

“It’s an exciting development.”

 

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New Study Finds Employee Incentives Can Lead To Unethical Behavior In The Workplace

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Considering end-of-year bonuses for your employees? Supervisors be forewarned, a new study finds that while incentive rewards can help motivate and increase employee performance it can also lead to unethical behavior in the workplace.

“Goal fixation can have a profound impact on employee behavior, and the damaging effects appear to be growing stronger in today’s competitive business landscape,” says Bill Becker, co-author of the study and associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech.

The study, “The effects of goals and pay structure on managerial reporting dishonesty,” provides valuable insight into the relationship between pay structures and motivation.

Findings suggest that setting compensation goals can increase dishonesty when managers are also paid a bonus for hitting certain targets.

“These unintended negative consequences can lead to dishonesty, unethical behavior, increased risk-taking, escalation of commitment, and depletion of self-control,” says Becker.

The study points to observations of unethical behaviors in the workplace that include employees falsifying or manipulating financial reporting information as well as time and expense reports.

For example, service professionals such as auditors, contractors, lawyers, and consultants who report hours billed against a target budget is often based on a fixed contract price.

“This causes potential for both under-reporting and over-reporting costs, which can undermine organizational objectives and negatively impact the interest of the firm,” says Becker.

“Using purely monetary incentives is almost always a double edged sword.”

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