NHS Breast Reduction

In many cases breast reduction is not available on the NHS because in a few cases it can be seen as something that is being undergone for purely aesthetic reasons rather than because of health issues that could possibly affect a patient's life. In order to receive breast reduction surgery on the NHS, patients will have to meet a set of unique criteria which will be determined by a number of medical professionals. This will often start with them being referred for further consultation by their local GP.

Can I Have Breast Reduction on the NHS?

Breast reduction surgery is available on the NHS, but policies regarding eligibility will vary depending on your local clinical commissioning group (CCG). Generally, you may be considered for a breast reduction if you meet certain criteria, namely if the size of your breasts is causing you physical issues, such as:

  • Back and neck pain
  • An inability to exercise
  • Poor posture
  • Bra-strap grooves on your shoulders
  • Skin irritation or excessive sweating, rashes and/or infections under the breasts

In addition to the criteria listed above, your local CCG may have other criteria for accepting you for a procedure including your weight, smoking status and whether previous interventions (such as specially made bras) have failed to correct the problems.

NHS breast reduction

How To Apply for a Breast Reduction

In order to be given a breast reduction on the NHS you will have to go through the application process, which is outlined step-by-step below:

  • 1. The first step in applying for a breast reduction procedure is to make an appointment with your GP, who will know whether you meet the local eligibility criteria for the procedure
  • 2. If you meet the criteria specified by your local CCG, your GP will then formally refer you to a breast/cosmetic surgeon who will assess you physically and a psychiatrist/psychologist who will assess your emotional and psychological well-being
  • 3. If you are deemed an appropriate breast reduction candidate (both physically and mentally), your surgeon will recommend you for the procedure to your local CCG, who have the final say in whether you will receive the surgery
  • 4. Once accepted, you will then be scheduled for your breast reduction surgery and will be told in detail the risks and possible side-effects of your procedure, as well as what to expect after your surgery

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Things to Consider Before Going Ahead

Before considering breast reduction on the NHS, your first port of call should be your GP. Your GP will be able to discuss with you what your concerns are, and whether the NHS will be able to help in your case. If your GP considers that your case will be eligible then they can refer you to an NHS breast reduction surgeon.

Before going ahead with an NHS breast reduction, the surgeon will talk you through what is involved, the risks of the procedure, and the expected outcome. They will likely explain to you how the breast reduction surgery will change the shape, look and feel of your breasts. They will also explain what scarring you can expect as well as changed or reduced nipple sensation, as well as the potential that you may not be able to breastfeed. Furthermore, they will explain the impact of your weight on your breasts now and in the future, as well as the natural ageing process effects on a woman’s breasts.

Breast Reduction NHS Waiting List

Unfortuantely due to the large number of patients seeking a breast reduction from the NHS, the wait list can be anything from a few months to a few years. The length of time is dependent on your region/area. For more information about receiving a breast reduction surgery on the NHS then patients should consult their GP or take a look at the breast reduction section of the NHS website.

Cost of Private Treatment

You may discover that your GP does not believe you are eligible for a breast reduction on the NHS, or that following referral to a breast reduction clinic they are unable to perform the surgery on the NHS. In this instance, you may wish to consider private breast reduction treatment.

Unfortunately, women have to be struggling quite markedly to be eligible for a breast reduction on the NHS. Some areas of the country do not fund the surgery at all.

In order to have breast reduction surgery on the NHS you will need to meet your local ‘conditions’. These may include back and neck pain that you experience due to the weight of the breasts and accompanying poor posture. You may also experience an inability to exercise, soreness, and infections under the breasts, as well as painful bra strap marks on your shoulders. In addition, some NHS areas will consider the psychological distress your large breasts are causing including low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

It is also not unusual for some local NHS areas to have breast reduction criteria which will include: a woman’s weight; breast size; whether you smoke; and what other methods to help you have tried.

Therefore it is not unsurprising that many women who are struggling with the effects of large breasts cannot get the reduction done on the NHS, and have to consider private treatment. Private breast reduction usually costs between £4000 and £6000.


What Are the Alternatives to Breast Reduction Surgery?

Before being considered for breast reduction surgery you are likely to be questioned on whether you have tried other methods to reduce the size of your breasts.

The following methods may help:

  • Weight loss: excess weight is frequently a cause of a large amount of fatty tissue adding size and weight to the breasts. You can speak to your GP about suitable weight loss methods for you. You may choose to consider liposuction to reduce the fat content of the breasts
  • Well fitting, and professionally fitted, bras: Sometimes large breast problems are exacerbated by an ill-fitting bra
  • Physiotherapy: can help to relieve the aches and pains associated with large breasts, as well as strengthen your back and shoulder muscles
  • Psychological Support and Counselling: this can be helpful if your breasts are causing you distress, upset, or problems with self-esteem

Read more: breast reduction cost, breast reduction FAQs

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