Breast Reduction (Mammoplasty)
Breast reduction, also known as reduction mammoplasty is a surgical operation in which women can reduce the size of their bust through removing the glandular tissue, fat and skin from the breasts. The breasts are subsequently reshaped and the nipples repositioned to provide a natural look, improving results.
Although this is a procedure that is mostly undergone by females, a similar technique may also be used to help men who are affected by a condition called gynaecomastia. One in three men suffer from gynaecomastia, which is most often caused by a subtle imbalance of hormone metabolism and can cause psychological distress and embarrassment for the sufferer.
Why Have A Breast Reduction?
There are many reasons women (and more increasingly men) opt to reduce the size of their breasts through breast reduction surgery including:
- To improve of back and neck pain associated with large breasts.
- To improve of posture.
- To more easily find underwear and clothes that fit properly.
- To combat unwanted attention as a result of having larger breasts.
- To improve the ability to exercise or participate in sporting activities.
What Are The Limitations To Breast Reduction Surgery?
The limitations to breast reduction surgery depend on the natural size and shape of the breasts. For example, women with very large breasts may not be so concerned about scarring if the benefits of the surgery outweigh the outcome. But for women whose breasts are only slightly larger than normal, it may be the case that a loss of nipple sensitivity, as well as a change in symmetry, would be too much of a compromise to consider. It's therefore extremely important to weigh up the pros and cons carefully with your surgeon.
How Much Will A Breast Reduction Cost?
The cost of a breast reduction (also known as a “reduction mammoplasty”) will vary depending on the clinic you choose and your personal circumstances, but procedures typically cost £4,000-£6,000.
Breast reduction is also available on the NHS, depending on whether you meet the specific eligibility criteria. To find out whether you would be able to receive the procedure through the NHS you should make an appointment to speak to your GP.
Breast reduction is a surgical procedure performed under general anaesthetic that takes on average around 1.5-4 hours. The surgeon will begin by marking the areas where the incisions will be made before beginning the operation, typically by re-positioning the nipple and it blood supply to its new location. If your breasts are extremely large, the nipple may be removed completely and reattached in its new position. The excess skin and breast tissue will then be removed and the remaining tissue reshaped to create smaller, firmer breasts.
Following the procedure you will be left with a scar, which will either be "anchor" shaped (traveling down the breast vertically and then following the breast crease), "lollipop" shaped (around the nipple and vertically down the breast) or circular (just around the nipple) depending on the technique used by your surgeon.
Before undergoing breast reduction surgery you should be sure that the procedure is definitely what you want and consider the changes the procedure will make to your life in the long term. You may also wish to fully investigate all the alternatives, such as having a specially-made bra or seeing if weight loss will reduce your breast size.
Should you decide to go ahead with the breast reduction, your surgeon or one of the surgical team should thoroughly explain how you should prepare for your procedure, what to expect afterwards, and the associated risks and possible side effects.
In preparation for your procedure you will be advised to be in the best health possible, by:
- Quitting smoking if you are a smoker.
- Losing weight if you are overweight.
- Stopping the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy if you take it, as these drugs can increase your risk of blood clots.
- Avoid aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
On the day of your surgery you will typically have to stop eating and drinking around 6 hours before the procedure.
After your procedure your breasts will be bandaged and may have plastic tubes inserted (drains) to remove any excess fluid. Once these are removed you will be able to return home, and will be told to wear a sports bra 24 hours/day for the first 2-3 weeks. The length of time your dressings will stay on will depend on how well your wounds heal. For the first week you may have some pain or discomfort which should be manageable using painkillers.
You should avoid any strenuous activity for at least six weeks and avoid driving until you can wear a seatbelt comfortably (normally 2-3 weeks). If you experience prolonged pain or swelling, or show signs of infections you should contact your clinic.
As with any surgical procedure there are a number of general risks associated with a breast reduction operation, including post-operative nausea and vomiting, reactions to the anaesthetic and possible infection and internal bleeding. In addition to these potential complications, there are also a number of risks specifically associated with breast reduction, including:
- Uneven shape - In addition to becoming smaller, your breasts will most likely also change shape. It is possible that your breasts will be different sizes/shapes, lumpy or have uneven nipples. If your breasts are severely uneven you may require a further procedure to correct them.
- Difficult wound healing - Due to the nature of the procedure your surgical wounds may have difficulty healing, especially where a horizontal and vertical wound meet. Most issues can be managed by careful cleaning, proper dressing and close monitoring. More serious complications such as infections may require medication or further intervention.
- Bruising - As with most surgical procedures there is a risk of swelling and bruising, but this should go down and eventually heal completely with time. If you have excessive bruising and swelling you may need a further procedure to drain the excess blood away.
- Scarring - Following your breast reduction you will be left with a scar which will very red for the first few months following your operation. However this should settle down and the scar should fade with time.
- Inability to breastfeed - Some breast reduction procedures mean that the nipple is separated from the mild duct. If this is the case, you will be unable to breastfeed as a result of your surgery.
- Loss of sensation in the nipples - If the nerves to your nipples are inadvertently damaged during your procedure you may lose feeling to them, or they may lose their ability to become erect.
Will The Results Of Breast Reduction Last?
Changes in lifestyle could cause your breasts to become slightly larger or smaller. Factors such as a significant weight gain or loss could alter your size, and pregnancy will also cause your breasts to change, albeit temporarily.
Unless you can avoid these instances, the size of your breasts should remain constant; although it's important to note that gravity will play a part in how your breasts change as you get older. If breast sagging becomes an issue, you may wish to consider a simple breast lift procedure to counteract the effects.