Is breast reduction surgery right for me?

If you have very large, heavy breasts you might consider having cosmetic surgery to reduce them in size.
Some reasons why women say they seek breast reduction surgery include:
  • "Exercising is uncomfortable"
  • "My bra straps cut into my shoulders, sometimes leaving grooves"
  • "My back hurts because of the weight of my breasts"
  • "I suffer from infections under my breasts"
  • "People only pay attention to my breasts, not me"
  • "I can't find pretty underwear and stylish clothes that fit"
Any of these may mean you could be a good candidate for a breast reduction.

However, while breast reduction surgery has a very high satisfaction rate, it is also has significant side effects, and is not suitable for everyone.

Mr Venkat V Ramakrishnan is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Nuffield Health Brentwood hospital. He says, "In general, I would not offer breast reduction surgery to any woman with less than D-cup breasts. This is because, even if the woman feels her breasts are too large, the risks of surgery and the resulting scarring, especially in younger women, do not offset any benefits."

A breast reduction may reduce the breast by as much as 10 cup sizes. The downside is visible scarring.

A breast reduction will leave scarring all around nipple, plus a vertical scar down the middle of the lower breast from the nipple to the crease. Most patients will also have a horizontal scar around the bottom of the breast, creating an anchor shape.

Because the operation is a significant one, you should expect at least two consultations with your surgeon to ensure they understand your desired result and you understand any drawbacks of the procedure.

Mr Ramkrishnan says, "Any patient who isn't absolutely certain this is what she wants, should not go ahead. I would also not want to operate on someone who only wants a minor reduction or if a patient is not suitable medically, for example, she has a heart condition or has had a reaction to anaesthesia. At times patient confuse the need for an uplift operation with a breast reduction operation. It is important for me to understand if the droopiness is the problem, or the size. In large breasted woman, both may be an issue."

"If you suffer from infections under the breast, you should be treated with antibiotics prior to surgery to avoid complications from wound healing.

"Women with a family history of breast cancer must have a pre-operative assessment of the breast with a mammogram or a scan. All tissue removed must always be tested under the microscope."

After the operation, your surgeon should offer scar management, with the use of silicone gels to help with healing for at least three months. If scars become thick or lumpy, injecting steroids into the scar can help. If you have a history of developing thick or wide scars, you should tell your surgeon in advance.

You must also be prepared for significant recovery time, including booking time off work. After the operation, you will need to rest for two weeks, keeping your arms close to your body at all times to avoid pulling on the stitches. For the following two weeks you will be able to move a little more, but you will not be able to exercise for at least six weeks.

A breast reduction is permanent, however some women find their breasts become bigger after the menopause due to hormonal changes.

Last updated Wednesday 14 June 2017

First published on Monday 24 August 2015