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More than Cosmetic: Breast Reduction Improves Physical Health Problems

Women of all ages, both younger and older women, with overly large breasts that are out of proportion to their body can experience both physical and mental symptoms. They often have significant neck, shoulder, and back pain. They may also have difficulty exercising and leading an active lifestyle. Skin irritation beneath the breast fold is also common. Heavy, sagging breasts can cause painful shoulder skin grooves resulting from bra straps. Some women also report feeling fatigue, headache, chest pain, and hand numbness. Finally, woman can feel dissatisfaction with their body image, low self esteem, and low self confidence.

A breast reduction is a plastic surgery procedure that reduces the size of the breast by surgically removing excess tissue. Many studies have shown that breast reduction surgery has one of the highest patient satisfaction rates among all plastic surgery procedures. Patients usually experience immediate and long lasting relief of their symptoms. Most women also report a more positive body image, as well as an increase in self esteem and quality of life.

Both the physical and mental symptoms associated with overly large breasts can be relieved by breast reduction surgery. The procedure reduces the size of the breasts and enhances their shape. It also moves the nipple and the areola (the darker skin surrounding the nipple) to a more youthful and aesthetic position.

Surgery can be considered medically necessary, and thus covered by insurance companies, when certain criteria are met. Typically, they require that the patient try conservative measures first, such as physical therapy, support bras, and over-the-counter pain medication. In addition, a specific weight of tissue must be removed by the surgeon—usually 400 grams (about a pound) per breast, although this amount can vary depending on a woman’s body weight.

Ideal candidates for surgery are in good health, non-smokers, and have a healthy body weight. Patients can return to normal activities or work within a week or two. Complications can include scars, nipple numbness, and for younger patients, a reduction in the ability to breastfeed.

A consultation with a plastic surgeon is the best way to decide if breast reduction surgery is right for you. Breast reduction can offer women an immediate sense of relief from their symptoms, a more positive body image, and increase self esteem. Most importantly, the majority of patients say they would have surgery again, and would encourage others to have the surgery as well.