If you are one of those women who are in their pregnancy and suddenly find a lump in their armpit – almost looking like another breast, then your concerns around that crescive growth is understandably met with fear. Your first guesses strike at a tumor. But then you have perhaps also experienced high levels of milky discharge from that lump (and it actually is milk). Relax! It might be a condition called Hypermastia or Polymastia whereby you could possess accessory mammary tissue apart from the two main mammary glands. Also referred to as Ectopic Breast Tissue, the condition is prevalent in 1 to 6 percent women. Women with ectopic breast tissue might start showing the lump around the fourth month during the gestational period, and it can be removed off surgically. So if you are one of the women who can associate with this condition, here is all you might want to learn about it:
• Causes of Ectopic Breast Tissue:
The glandular tissues run through two parallel lines called Mammary Ridge or Milk Line starting a little beyond the underarm area and running through the entire trunk area all the way to the groin and ending in inner sides of the thighs. The milk line prompts the development of accessory breasts while the rest of the tissue regress eventually. The extra tissue might also form nipples and areola at times, and it could be present anywhere along the milk line. Therefore, you can expect any number of these along the line.
• How do you identify Ectopic Breast Tissue:
The condition may be characterized by breast tissue with or without a nipple and with or without areola, nipple without glandular tissue, or areola without nipple or glandular tissue. At times, the ectopic milk duct leaks milk simply through the skin without the incidence of a nipple or visible breast tissue. The extra nipples are usually situated below the breasts or underarms.
• What can you expect of the accessory breast tissues?
You can expect darkening of the nipples and areolas. The accessory breast tissues may increase in size or swell during pregnancy and lactation. It is also likely that they will become supple or get engorged (breasts get full) and start producing milk. So if you suddenly expect trickling of milk from the underarms or elsewhere along the milk line, you shouldn’t be surprised. But it’s not typical of the accessory breast tissues to produce milk. And a leaking accessory breast tissue does not interfere with normal breastfeeding.
• How do you comfort the leaky accessory breast tissues?
Chances are the accessory breast tissues do not show signs of draining out through the ducts, then cold compression (with ice packs wrapped in cloth) can be of help until the tissues involute and terminate milk production. And while the normal women may use absorbent breast pads for their leaky breasts, you might have to have loads of them stashed in the underarms as well or have a bandaid or gauze to prevent them from rubbing against the clothing (to avoid any irritation) or catch the leaks.
• Can the accessory breast tissues cause any problems?
Since they have the attributes of the main breast tissues, accessory breast tissues can also be associated with other problems as inflammation, cysts, abscesses, mastitis, benign lumps, or other malignant changes.
• Can one remove the accessory breast tissues?
Yes, through surgery this can be achieved. Although the nipples may regress, and it may no longer be necessary to do anything about the accessory breast tissues, to avoid any aforesaid problems, you might want to remove them surgically. Some also see a need for the same for cosmetic reasons.
Women usually have qualms about stretch marks or their postpartum bodies. But if you happen to be one with the third breast, it’s time to get over the worries, understand the biology and seek a doctor’s help.