8 Things Women Should Know About Breast Reduction Surgery - But Don't

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Although breast augmentation surgeries have long been one of the most popular procedures in the cosmetic surgery field, another popular option for women is breast reduction. In women with large breasts, a breast reduction can enhance their appearance and their self-confidence.

A preeminent San Diego plastic surgeon with extensive experience in breast procedures including augmentations and reductions, Dr. Manish Champaneria shares his knowledge on breast reduction surgeries by highlighting things women should known about breast reduction surgery—but don’t.

  1. There's more than one type of incision (and more than one type of scar).

The goal of a breast reduction is to reduce the size of the breast. Typically, this is performed by removing skin and breast tissue. There are three incision types to do just that. Which one your surgeon chooses largely depends on how much excess skin and breast tissue needs to be removed. If you only need a small amount taken out, there's the circumareolar incision—also known as a doughnut incision—which involves cutting around the areola and removing some of the surrounding excess skin. If you need to remove more loose skin and tissue than that, the next level up is the lollipop incision, which leaves a scar around areola and a second scar that goes straight down from the base of the areola. The lollipop incision is also known as a vertical incision. For more extensive reductions, there's the Wise pattern, which has the same two incisions as the lollipop and an additional scar that runs along the underside, or crease, of the breast, creating a scar that resembles an anchor. In some cases, surgeons also tack on liposuction to help reduce breast tissue.

2. You want to make sure your breasts are done growing before having a reduction.

There's a reason breast reductions aren't typically recommended in the early teen years—you ideally want to wait until you've reached an age when your body as stopped growing. In general, it’s best to wait until the breast have fully grown, and typically that occurs after puberty. But there are exceptions: For example, young women still in puberty who develop rapidly large breasts and are still growing may opt for the surgery. The reason for performing such surgery early on may be related to back pain, inability to exercise, or the social stigmata related to being large-breasted.

3. You may need more than one procedure.

Keep in mind that even if you wait until after age 21 to have the surgery, breasts can and likely will change if you get pregnant and breastfeed or if you have significant weight fluctuations. It is fairly common for the breasts to change over a lifetime, and several women experience breast enlargement later in life, even if they’ve had a breast reduction.

4. Your insurance may help pay for it.

Breast reduction surgery costs a pretty penny—around $5,000-10,000 on average in the U.S. for the surgeon's fee alone, but that can go up depending on how extensive the procedure is, the surgeon's experience level, and where you're getting it done. The good news is that many health insurance plans cover breast reduction surgery, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. That's because even though the surgery is cosmetic, it also has medical benefits, such as relieving neck, back, or shoulder pain. But, there is a minimum amount of tissue that is required to be removed if going through insurance, so if you’re interested in a small reduction or a breast lift, there may be some additional fees.

5. Your nipples may be less—or more—sensitive after.

Some women find that nipple sensitivity isn't the same post-surgery. Sometimes nipple sensation stays the same, or increases, or decreases—depending on the patient’s anatomy and the extent of the reduction.

6. It may change with your ability to breastfeed.

During the surgery, fat and tissue are removed to reduce the size of the breasts, which can damage nerves and milk ducts in the process. According to BFAR, a site dedicated to educating and supporting women who want to breastfeed after a reduction, procedures in which the nipple isn't completely severed (though it can be moved) result in the most milk production during breastfeeding. Typically, if you’re able to breastfeed before a breast reduction, you will most likely be able to breastfeed following the procedure as well.

7. There are methods to minimize scarring.

Scarring is typically a genetic phenomenon, and varies person to person. While scars generally fade and flatten over time, there are steps you can take to not only speed up that process but also minimize them even more. Silicone scar gel and silicone sheets are effective in producing a nice scar. Scar massage is also very important, as this technique breaks down abnormal scar tissue. Special surgical tape is also beneficial because it tends to relieve tension on the incisions, and scars heal better without tension. Scars in a breast reduction are permanent, but it’s important to have realistic expectations, too.

8. Get ready for a big self-esteem boost.

Large, pendulous breasts aren't just heavy to carry around. They can also weigh down your self-esteem and get in the way of exercise. So it's no surprise that a Finnish study found that up to a third of women who seek breast reduction surgery suffer from anxiety, depression, or both. But the same study showed that post-surgery, women report significantly less depression and higher self-esteem. A study in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that 80 percent of women rated their results from the surgery as “very good” or “good” a year post-procedure. Patients who undergo breast reduction surgery are typically the happiest of all.

If you’re ready to change your life with breast reduction surgery, Dr. Champaneria would love to meet you. Book a personalized consultation and come talk to him about your story.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.