Breast Reduction: Everything You Need to Know and More
- January 7, 2023
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One of the most important things in life is to feel good in your own skin. However, sometimes, there are obstacles on the journey to self-love. One such obstacle can be breast size. Larger breasts can be the root of a lot of negative emotions, making you feel uncomfortable or overly exposed. It can keep you from wearing the clothes that you want to wear or being as active as you want to be. In order to make you feel like yourself again, there is a certain type of surgery that can help – breast reduction surgery.
What is breast reduction surgery?
Breast reduction surgery (or reduction mammaplasty) is a cosmetic surgery that removes extra fat, tissue, and skin from your breasts to reduce their size. The operation can be done via three different techniques: liposuction, the vertical (or “lollipop”) technique, and the inverted-T (or “anchor”) technique. The method used will depend on the extent to which your breasts will be reduced and the condition of your skin.
Why do people get breast reduction surgery?
The main reason that people get reduction mammaplasty is a very simple one: they want to feel better in their own skin. Disproportionate breasts or breasts that just feel too large can greatly affect a person’s mental health. Many women feel insecure or exposed because of their chest size. Furthermore, it can make them feel like they cannot wear the clothes or bras that they want to wear, saying that it would be “too revealing” in a public setting simply because of their chest size.
In addition, large breasts can cause a number of physical problems, as well. A larger bust, especially if it is not proportionate to the rest of your body, can cause neck pain, back pain, nerve pain, and frequent rashes or irritation under the breasts. It can even indirectly cause health problems due to the fact that many women with larger breasts find it difficult or uncomfortable to exercise frequently.
Another reason could also be the societal stigma that comes with larger breasts. This reason is tied to the lack of control women might feel over their wardrobe options (either the clothes not fitting them at all or not fitting them properly) – many women are sexualized because of their chest size, making it twice as hard to find clothes that make them feel confident.
Any or all of these reasons can be the motivation behind getting breast reduction surgery.
Who is the best candidate for breast reduction surgery?
Anyone can be a candidate for breast reduction surgery, regardless of age. Sometimes, even teenagers can qualify. However, it is generally recommended to wait until your breasts are fully developed for you to get the surgery to make sure that they do not develop any further after surgery. This is to make sure that you will not need a second surgery later on in life. Furthermore, you can be a candidate for breast reduction surgery if you:
- Feel like your breasts limit your physical activity or bother you in some way
- Experience back, neck, or shoulder pain because of your breasts
- Have skin irritation under your breast crease
- Are physically and mentally healthy
- Are a non-smoker
However, there are also reasons for you to not get breast reduction surgery. It is not recommended to get reduction mammoplasty if you:
- Have certain health conditions (diabetes, heart problems, obesity)
- Want to avoid scars on your breasts
In addition, it is recommended that patients who fit in these categories postpone breast reduction surgery for a period of time:
- If you want to start a family or have more kids – breast reduction surgery can affect breast-feeding
- If you want to lose weight – losing weight can change your breast size
Breast reduction surgery techniques
The technique that is used for your surgery will depend on a number of factors:
- Your unique condition
- Your breast composition
- The extent of the reduction
- How much tissue needs to be removed
- Your personal preferences
- Your surgeon’s opinion on the procedure
Before surgery, you and your surgeon will discuss all these matters and decide which technique is best for you.
Liposuction is recommended for small reduction and people with tighter skin. With this technique, the surgeon will begin by making small incisions in your skin. Then, a tube connected to a vacuum is inserted. This will suction fat and fluids from your breasts.
Vertical or “lollipop”
This technique is recommended for moderate breast reductions and breasts that show visible signs of sagging or drooping. Your surgeon will begin by making cuts around your areola and then down to the crease underneath your breast. Then, extra tissue and fat is removed and the breast is reshaped and lifted.
Inverted-T or “anchor”
This method is recommended for large reductions and patients with a lot of sagging or patients who have uneven breasts. The surgeon will make incisions around the areola to the breast crease and along the crease underneath your breast.
Breast Reduction Surgery: A Step-by-Step Process
Below is a step-by-step walkthrough of each part of the process of breast reduction surgery:
The consultation is the time for you and your doctor to discuss the entire procedure from A to Z, as well as a chance for you to ask your doctor questions and vice versa. First, your doctor will ask about you and your family’s medical history and your health. In particular, he/she will ask whether you’ve ever had a lump removed from your breast or if you’ve had any other breast-related medical conditions.
In addition, you will have a conversation about why you want a breast reduction. During this conversation, you will talk about the emotional and physical impact that having large breasts has had on you.
Your surgeon will also take photos and measurements of your breasts to prepare for surgery.
Prior to getting breast reduction surgery, you will need to do a few things to prepare. Your doctor will tell you exactly what to do, but typically, patients are asked to:
- Get a breast exam and a mammogram
- Complete various lab tests
- Stop smoking
- Avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements (they increase bleeding)
Moreover, you should also prepare a space in your home that has all of the things you need for your recovery on hand in an easily accessible place. These things include:
- Clean washcloths and towels
- Loose, comfortable shirts
You should also arrange for someone to take you to and from surgery, as well as for someone to stay with you for at least the first night after surgery.
Breast Reduction Surgery
Typically, breast reduction surgery should take about two to five hours. During surgery, the following will be done:
For the procedure, you will be put under general anesthesia. This means that during the surgery, you will be completely unconscious. If you have any allergies or issues with anesthesia, you will need to discuss this with your doctor beforehand.
Breast reduction procedure
The technique(s) that is used during your surgery will have been discussed and decided before surgery during your consultation. However, in general, this procedure will begin with making incisions around the areola and down each breast. Then, the surgeon will remove any excess fat, tissue, and skin, which will cause the breast to become smaller. Then, the nipple and areola are repositioned. In some cases, they might need to be first removed and then reattached at a higher position on your breast as a skin graft. This, however, only happens if your breasts are very large.
Closing the Incision
The incisions that were made are then closed in order to reshape the breast. Sutures, skin adhesives, or surgical tape is then used to close the skin. Drainage tubes may also be used to drain out any fluid that might appear and then they might be wrapped in gauze or you might have to wear a surgical bra.
After breast reduction surgery and recovery
After you finish surgery, your breasts will be covered with either gauze or bandages. A drainage tube might be placed under your arms to drain any excess fluid. Your surgeon will give you pain medication and antibiotics, as well as schedule your follow-up appointments for removing your bandages and stitches. You will have to take at least a week off work to recover.
In the first few days after surgery, your breasts will feel tender and sensitive. There will also be swelling and bruising. The bruises will fade over time, and swelling should go down completely in the next few months or sooner. Your surgeon might also give you an elastic compression bra to wear in order to protect your breasts. You should avoid heavy lifting for the first few days. If you experience pain, the pain medication can help you through the first few days after surgery, as well.
Emotional responses, such as feeling sad or depressed, can be completely normal after surgery. However, if you experience these emotions, you should still tell your doctor. For about the first month, it is recommended to limit your physical activity as much as possible. Your surgeon might also tell you to avoid underwire bras for the first few months after surgery.
Scarring usually fades over time. The final results should take a few months to be completely visible after the swelling, bruising, and scarring heals.
Risks and complications of breast reduction surgery
Just like any other surgery, breast reduction surgery may put you at risk for certain complications, such as:
- Allergies to the materials used in the procedure
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Blood clots
- Breast asymmetry
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation
- Damage to deeper structures – such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles and lungs
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Excessive firmness of the breast
- Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Poor wound healing
- Potential loss of skin/tissue of breast where incisions meet each other
- Potential, partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes
- Unfavorable scarring
Contact your doctor if you experience:
- Any unusual discharge from the surgical site
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath
- Signs of infection (redness, tenderness, unusual swelling at the incision site; fever)
- Unusual heartbeats
- Your stitches starting to come out before you are due to have them removed
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does breast reduction surgery cost?
The cost of reduction mammaplasty depends on your surgeon’s experience, the type of procedure, and the office location. However, on average, it will be around $7,000 to $10,000. This, however, is only part of the overall fee. Other related costs include:
- Anesthesia fees
- Medical tests
- Medication costs
- Surgeon’s fees
- Surgical facility costs
Is breast reduction surgery covered by insurance providers?
Yes. Because of the fact that breast reduction is considered a form of reconstructive surgery, many providers do give coverage. However, you will need to get authorization from your insurance provider, and other steps might also be required, like submission of a letter or photographs.
Will breast reduction surgery affect my ability to breast feed?
Yes. Breast reduction limits your ability to breast feed, so talk to your doctor before the surgery if you plan on needing to do so in the future.
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