Advise Me

Should I Get a Breast Reduction?

As women, most of us have some kind of love-hate relationship with our bras. While there is nothing like that feeling of releasing “The Girls,” aka your breasts, from the confines of that crazy over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder, for some women with ample bosoms (larger boobs), their bras—and boobs—can be a huge nuisance.

Their breasts can get in the way when they exercise and sleep, they can cause headaches, back and neck pain—and not to mention some awful indentations. As a woman with a bigger chest, you may accept and embrace your body, but sometimes not even your bra can help keep your boobs from holding you back from living your life.

If your breasts are getting in the way of you living your life to its fullest, you may be considering breast reduction surgery.

“Breast reduction patients are often some of the most satisfied plastic surgery patients,” said Nathan Narasimhan, MD, a plastic surgeon at Banner Health in Colorado. “They often see a significant improvement in, sometimes debilitating, symptoms, which has a very positive impact on their sense of well-being. I think the most common ‘surprise’ after surgery is that they have less pain than they were expecting.”

Dr. Narasimhan helped answer some commonly asked questions that patients who are considering breast reduction surgery ask.

Who are the best candidates for breast reduction surgery?

Breast reduction surgery is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures in the U.S. While there are no guidelines on how big is too big to warrant surgery, here are some reasons patients consider it:

  • They may feel their breast size is too large for their frame—whether this is due to appearance, limitation of desired activities or feeling self-conscious.
  • Some will have symptoms such as neck pain, upper back and shoulder pain and trouble sleeping.
  • They may have chronic rashes and skin infections in the folds under their breasts.

“If you’re considering a breast reduction, it is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor and pursue non-surgical treatments first, such as physical therapy, massage therapy, different bras or support garments, treatment of rashes or infections,” Dr. Narasimhan said. “Sometimes patients will find that their symptoms improve enough that they no longer need surgery. If symptoms persist despite attempts at non-surgical therapy, breast reduction is a good treatment option.”

Is breast reduction surgery covered by insurance?

This depends. Every insurance company has different, independent criteria for coverage. It is typically considered cosmetic, but some insurance companies cover some or all the costs of surgery if it is being done to relieve some medical problems associated with large and heavy breasts.

If you feel you are a candidate for breast reduction surgery, contact your health insurance company to ask about their criteria for coverage.

What is breast reduction surgery like?

A plastic surgeon, such as Dr. Narasimhan, will perform an “open” breast reduction surgery in a hospital or outpatient surgery setting. There are multiple options for what incisions are used, but your surgeon will make them based on your characteristics, such as breast size, amount of extra skin/sag and elasticity of your skin.

After your surgery, you’ll wear a surgical support bra (I know, another bra!), typically until your dressings are removed (roughly 48 hours after surgery).

“I don’t require patients to wear it continuously or for any specific period of time,” Dr. Narasimhan said. “After their dressings are removed, they are free to wear any comfortable bra they like. The only restriction I give typically is to not wear a bra with underwire for 6 weeks.”

While you are recovering from home—roughly 2-6 weeks, this would be a good time to get help with household chores and other daily activities. Physical activity restrictions are typically no lifting more than 10lbs for 2 weeks, no strenuous activity/exercise for 2 weeks and no reaching/stretching over head for 2 weeks. After that period of restriction, you can gradually increase physical activity, with upper body muscles use as the last thing you add in around 4-6 weeks after surgery.

Are there any risks?

While breast reduction surgery is a very safe procedure, it’s still surgery.

“Risk of problems like bleeding, infection and healing problems are common to any kind of surgical procedure but are low with this particular surgery,” Dr. Narasimhan said. “Risk of compromise to the blood supply of the nipple and areola is the most feared complication and, fortunately, is extremely rare."

If you plan on getting pregnant, know that it could affect your milk supply if you breastfeed.

Studies indicate that some women will need to supplement with formula when breastfeeding, but it is difficult to predict who will need to supplement and who will not. Long story short, women who have had a breast reduction will be able to produce breast milk, but some will need to supplement with formula,” Dr. Narasimhan said.

Next Steps

Are you considering a breast reduction surgery? Consult with your doctor to see if you are a good candidate.

Breast health is different for each woman. For breast-related questions and concerns, speak with one of our world-renowned experts at Banner Health. To find a Banner Health expert, visit bannerhealth.com.

Women's Health Outpatient Surgery

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