More than 114,000 American women had breast reduction surgery in 2014, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. But here’s what you need to know before having the procedure. In an article by Self, Dr. Gordon Lee, M.D., a plastic and breast reconstructive surgeon at Stanford Health Care talks about some of the most important points to remember about breast reduction surgery before committing.
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. “When you sew it together, the final shape is like a lollipop,” says Lee. 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.
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 if a patient is in full adulthood, after age 21,” says Lee. But there are exceptions and you can discuss these with your surgeon.
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’s not unusual for a patient to have breast surgery in her 20s, and then get older, breastfeed, and 15 to 20 years later come back for an additional procedure,” says Lee.
Breast reduction surgery can cost around $5,000 and up on average in the U.S. but 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, notes Lee. But not every patient’s surgery is automatically covered. Insurance companies often require a minimum amount of tissue removed for it to be considered a medical procedure, so you need to check with your insurance company to know what their guidelines are and what your benefits include.
Some women find that nipple sensitivity isn’t the same post-surgery. “There’s a small risk that nipple sensation can be reduced or completely absent and numb,” notes Lee. That’s because nerves can get agitated or are cut during the procedure. “But in some cases,” he adds, “nipple sensation can be increased.”
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 result in the most milk production during breastfeeding.
“The scar creams that are the most effective have some type of silicone gel in them,” says Lee. “After six months, scars seem to look a little bit better.” Lee also recommends Embrace, a tape that’s applied to scars that are two to four weeks old (or up to six months post-surgery) and worn for about eight weeks. The tape appears to minimize scarring by pulling the skin around the incision closer together. “One of the things we think contributes to bad scars is tension,” explains Lee. “The tape offloads the tension or stress on the scar, and scars may heal better that way.” Although these methods can be effective, it’s important to have realistic expectations: “There are always going to be scars when surgery is involved,” he says. “These scars do fade, but they are permanent.”
Large, sagging, pendulous breasts aren’t just heavy to carry around, they can also weigh down your self-esteem and get in the way of regular 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. “Most patients are really happy with their choice of doing the surgery and immediately have relief from shoulder and back pain,” says Lee.
If you are seeking more information on facial and body reconstruction and plastic surgery you should make an appointment with a board certified plastic surgeon like Dr Aguiar. At Aguiar Plastic Surgery, we offer state-of-the art, safe, and effective cosmetic procedures, plastic surgery, reconstructive surgery, and Med Spa services in Tampa, Florida. We can discuss your concerns and give you an honest consultation that is designed and tailored to create an appearance on the outside that will reflect how you feel on the inside.
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