Making the Decision for Breast Reduction
(From “Your Image,” a publication of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.)
Throughout history, large breasts have been associated with nurturing and considered a sign of femininity. But heavy, pendulous breasts are often a source of terrible discomfort, including severe neck, shoulder and back pain. They can make it difficult to participate in sports and other physical activities. Psychologically speaking, excessively large breasts may cause embarrassment and self-consciousness, particularly in young people.
Surprisingly, the first surgical reduction of the breasts may date as far back as the mid-1600s in England. Modern breast reduction techniques evolved in the second half of the 20th century. Today, emphasis is not only on reducing size but also improving the shape and overall aesthetics of the breast. At the same time, plastic surgeons have developed techniques that strive to preserve breast sensation and the ability to breast-feed.
Breast reduction can be performed at any age, but it is usually best to wait until breast development has stopped. There are exceptions – if psychosocial development is seriously damaged by the physical and emotional problems associated with excessive breast size, the benefits of surgery may outweigh the risk of possible reoperation in the future. Women past menopause may also benefit from breast reduction, particularly if it will significantly decrease the stress on their skeletal system. People who are severely overweight usually are encouraged to drop pounds before undergoing surgery. Studies have shown, though, that breast reduction may sometimes be the stimulus for effective weight loss in such individuals following surgery.
Breast reduction surgery may be covered by some health insurance plans when the amount of breast tissue removed is significant and meets the insurance company’s criteria. In other cases, insurance companies may consider the reduction to be “cosmetic” and the surgery must be paid for directly by the patient. Your plastic surgeon can help you determine whether your breast reduction surgery might be covered by insurance.
It is important to be realistic in your expectations about breast reduction surgery. Breast reduction is a major operation, usually requiring a brief stay in the hospital. There are a number of possible techniques, but, in most cases, there will be visible scars. Most women have no problem accepting these scars, which normally fade and become less noticeable over time. Women who decide on breast reduction usually feel that the freedom from pain and the ability to find clothes that fit balances any potential downsides to the surgery. Plastic surgeons generally agree that breast reduction surgery has one of the highest satisfaction rates of any procedure they perform.
Male Breast Reduction
Many people are not aware that over-development of the breasts is a fairly common problem among males. In fact, estimates are that 40 to 60 percent of men experience some degree of breast enlargement, a condition called gynecomastia, during their lifetime. This may occur during adolescence or later on. Although certain drugs and medical conditions have been associated with gynecomastia, in most cases the reason for the condition is unknown.
The treatment for gynecomastia varies according to whether the excess tissue is primarily glandular or fatty. In many cases, gynecomastia can be easily corrected with lipoplasty (liposuction) alone. Sometimes, the procedure is more extensive, but it is usually possible to position scars inconspicuously around the edge of the pigmented area surrounding the nipple, or sometimes in the underarm area.
Like breast reduction for a woman, the correction of gynecomastia can make a big difference in a man’s self-image and self-confidence. When breast reduction is the right choice and is performed by a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon, it can greatly improve your quality of life.