This life-changing surgery needs careful consideration.
I often think the breast reduction procedure is a bit of a paradox. It’s technically classified as ‘cosmetic’, but nearly all my patients want reductions for practicality reasons (like making exercise easier) or because of symptoms like back-ache and neck pain.
Nearly 4,000 breast reduction surgeries were carried out last year in the UK alone.
But what should you know before deciding if breast reduction is right for you? Hagen Schumacher, Expert Consultant Cosmetic Surgeon at MyAesthetics shares expert advice on the things you should know before undergoing the procedure:
You need to meet the criteria
Unless you’ve had a BMI of 25 or less for more than two years and have exhausted all other possible avenues, surgery on the NHS may not be readily available.
If you go private, your surgeon will want a full understanding of why you want surgery and manage your expectations accordingly – it’s a serious procedure and they need to make sure it’s right for you.
Age can be a factor too. Personally, I don’t like to operate on patients younger than 18 for purely cosmetic reasons, as their bodies can still be developing. However, if there are functional problems or psychological effects and they have parental support, I believe surgery can be an option.
It’s not just for women
In 2015 the American Society of Plastic Surgeons revealed male reductions accounted for more than 40% of all breast reduction surgeries.
This is not just a trend in the U.S – I get more and more men asking if they are eligible for breast reductions here in the UK too. Changes in hormone levels as men grow older and gain weight can contribute to developing gynaecomastia, a condition causing male breasts to become larger than normal.
While it’s becoming more openly accepted, some men continue to delay surgery. This is usually because younger applicants may not yet be financially independent and say they find it embarrassing asking for help to pay for the procedure.
You can lose nipple sensation
Surgery primarily aims to reduce the size of the breast. However, the most critical part is repositioning the nipple with a good cosmetic outcome, without risking cutting off blood supply.
For minor reductions, this isn’t usually a problem but in larger reductions, the risks increase and 15% of patients permanently lose nipple sensation. It may also impair a woman’s ability to breastfeed.
You need to make time to recover
A standard breast reduction procedure usually takes around three hours under general anaesthetic and can be done as a day case or as an overnight stay. However, once the surgery is complete it doesn’t mean you can resume your normal daily routine straight away.
You will need to be careful in order to let stitches heal and any bruising or swelling to go down. I use dissolving stitches underneath the skin which don’t have to be removed. Swelling and bruising can last for up to three to four months, or even longer, as fluids accumulate to treat the injury
Guidelines for recovery times are as follows:
- Most patients can return to light activities after two weeks
- To moderate activities after six weeks
- To heavy work or extreme sports after three months.
- Driving is often possible after three weeks
There are things you can avoid in order to recover more quickly. Factors which can negatively affect healing include smoking, being overweight, alcohol or poorly controlled medical conditions such as diabetes.
Your new boobs might not be forever
After your reduction, you won’t be immune from the natural changes your body undergoes. Your new breasts could still be affected by weight loss or gain and pregnancy – so your dream breasts may not be forever.
You can aid your own recovery
A healthy lifestyle can optimise the healing process.
Drinking plenty of fluids and eating food rich in vitamins and protein can help with healing. Fresh fruit and vegetables are usually sufficient but you might benefit from additional supplements if you have deficiencies. Many patients find Arnica helpful for alleviating bruising and soreness.