From chronic back pain to poor self-esteem, large breasts can present a
host of health problems. Find out whether surgery could ease your
Contrary to popular belief, large breasts aren't always what they're
cracked up to be. For many women, overly large, pendulous breasts can
result in chronic neck and back pain, poor posture, breathing problems,
rashes, and deep skin grooves resulting from bra strap pressure. What's
more, excessive breast tissue can prevent some women from participating
in physical activities and even lead to self-consciousness, poor
self-esteem, and other psychological problems.
To ease their discomfort, more and more women are turning to
breast-reduction surgery, also known as reduction mammaplasty. As the
American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reports, more than 104,000
breast reductions were performed in the United States in 2006, compared
with 84,000 in 2000an increase of 23 percent. In addition,
breast-reduction surgery may make it easier to perform mammograms and,
according to a report published in a 2004 issue of the journal Plastic
and Reconstructive Surgery, may even lower a woman's risk of developing
Although patient-satisfaction rates are generally high, experts are
quick to point out that reduction mammaplasty is serious surgery. As
such, prospective patients should do their research, find an
experienced surgeon, and ask lots of questions so they can make
informed decisions. Here, the basics on breast reduction.
Is breast Reduction Right For You?
Whether you're seeking surgery to ease pain, to boost your confidence,
or for cosmetic reasons, it's important to understand how the procedure
is performed. In general, reduction mammaplasty is an outpatient
procedure that reduces the size of the breasts by removing excess
tissue, fat, and skin. In some cases, it may be combined with a
breast-lift procedure, also known as mastopexy.
In most cases, the procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and
there are several techniques a surgeon may use, depending on the
patient's symptoms and/or aesthetic desires:
- Inferior pedicle approach: Also known as the
keyhole technique, this approach removes excess tissue, fat, and skin
via an anchor-shaped incision that circles the areola and extends
downward. The nipple and areola are placed into a higher position, in
proportion with the patient's new breast size and shape. This approach
can be especially effective for women with very large and droopy
- Vertical scar approach: With the vertical scar
approach, also known as short scar breast reduction, the surgeon uses a
lollipop-shaped incision without horizontal incisions. According to
some experts, this technique results in less noticeable scarring, a
more natural shape, and better results over time than the inferior
- Liposuction-only approach: For women who require a
minor size reduction or simply want to correct an asymmetry, the
liposuction-only technique may be suitable. With this approach, fat is
removed through a hollow tube and suction device. Compared with other
forms of reduction mammaplasty, this technique offers minimal scarring,
less trauma to the breasts, and quicker recovery.
15 Questions to Ask Your Cosmetic Surgeon
As with any
cosmetic surgery, a breast reduction generally begins with a
consultation. At that time, you should discuss your symptoms and ask
for a detailed summary of the procedure, the results you can expect,
and the amount of scarring that will likely result. Remember to be as
specific as possible about the size and shape you'd like to achieve.
All too often, a patient says that she wants to be a certain cup size,
but her understanding of that size and the surgeon's may be quite
In addition, be sure to ask the following questions:
1. How many of breast reductions do you perform each year?
2. How many years have you spent performing breast reductions?
3. Are you board certified, and if so, with which board(s)?
4. In which states are you licensed to practice surgery?
5. What are the risks and complications associated with this procedure?
6. How many additional operations can I expect as a result of this procedure over my lifetime?
7. What are my options if I'm dissatisfied with the outcome of my breast reduction?
8. If I'm unhappy with the results, is it possible to reverse the procedure? If so, what results can I expect?
9. Will this surgery have any functional repercussions?
10. How can I expect my results to look over time?
11. What alternate procedures or products are available if I choose not to have this surgery?
12. Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at, and which of those results are reasonable for me to expect?
13. What's the most common complication you encounter with this procedure?
14. What's your reoperation rate, and what's the most common type of reoperation you perform?
15. Do you believe I'm an informed patient with realistic expectations who would be a good candidate for this procedure?
Breast Reduction Financing Options
The costs of reduction mammaplasty vary depending on location, surgeon,
and technique, but according to the ASPS, the national average surgeon
fee is $5,550. Keep in mind that this amount does not include costs
associated with the surgical facility, anesthesia, medical tests,
prescriptions, or surgical garments.
Although some insurance companies cover breast reduction surgery, it
must be viewed as a medical necessity, as opposed to cosmetic, and the
criteria for this may vary depending on the company. So be sure to
check your policy first. If your policy doesn't cover the procedure, or
if you don't have health insurance, there may be other options
available. Financial institutions, such as Capital One, offer
health-care loans specifically designed for cosmetic surgery patients.