Denver Breast Reduction Surgery Questions
After dealing with the discomfort and self-consciousness that often goes along with having large, heavy breasts, many women—including Modern Family star Ariel Winter, who publicly shared that she had the procedure last year—turn to breast reduction surgery for relief. In fact, more than 114,000 American women had the surgery in 2014, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Curious about what the surgery entails or already have your heart set on it? Here’s what you need to know before going under the knife.
1. There’s more than one type of incision (and more than one type of scar).
“Breast reduction, which is done to reduce the size of a woman’s breasts, usually includes removing skin and/or the breast tissue beneath it,” Gordon Lee, M.D., a plastic and breast reconstructive surgeon at Stanford Health Care, tells SELF. There are three incision types to do just that. Which one your surgeon chooses largely depends on how much excess skin and breast tissue needs to be removed. If you only need a small amount taken out, there’s the circumareolar incision—also known as a doughnut incision—which involves cutting around the areola and removing some of the surrounding excess skin. If you need to remove more loose skin and tissue than that, the next level up is the lollipop incision, which leaves a scar around areola and a second scar that goes straight down from the base of the areola. “When you sew it together, the final shape is like a lollipop,” says Lee. For more extensive reductions, there’s the Wise pattern, which has the same two incisions as the lollipop and an additional scar that runs along the underside, or crease, of the breast, creating a scar that resembles an anchor. In some cases, surgeons also tack on liposuction to help reduce breast tissue.
2. You want to make sure your breasts are done growing before having a reduction.
There’s a reason breast reductions aren’t typically recommended in the early teen years—you ideally want to wait until you’ve reached an age when your body as stopped growing. “In general, it’s best if a patient is in full adulthood, after age 21,” says Lee. But there are exceptions: For example, young women still in puberty who develop rapidly large breasts and are still growing may opt for the surgery. “At that age, they’re socially having a problem, they have significant back or neck pain, and can’t go to PE or exercise,” says Lee.
3. And you may end up coming back for more.
Keep in mind that even if you wait until after age 21 to have the surgery, breasts can and likely will change if you get pregnant and breastfeed or if you have significant weight fluctuations. “It’s not unusual for a patient to have breast surgery in her 20s, and then get older, breastfeed, and 15 to 20 years later come back for an additional procedure,” says Lee.
4. Your insurance may help pay for it.
Breast reduction surgery costs a pretty penny—around $5,000 on average in the U.S. for the surgeon’s fee alone, but that can go up depending on how extensive the procedure is, the surgeon’s experience level, and where you’re getting it done. The good news is that many health insurance plans cover breast reduction surgery, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. That’s because even though the surgery is cosmetic, it also has medical benefits, such as relieving neck, back, or shoulder pain, notes Lee. But not every patient’s surgery is automatically covered. Insurance companies often require a minimum amount of tissue removed for it to be considered a medical procedure, so you may need to foot the bill for a minor reduction.
5. Your nipples may be less—or more—sensitive after.
Some women find that nipple sensitivity isn’t the same post-surgery. “There’s a small risk that nipple sensation can be reduced or completely absent and numb,” notes Lee. That’s because nerves can get agitated or are cut during the procedure. “But in some cases,” he adds, “nipple sensation can be increased.”
6. It may mess with your ability to breastfeed.
During the surgery, fat and tissue are removed to reduce the size of the breasts, which can damage nerves and milk ducts in the process. According to BFAR, a site dedicated to educating and supporting women who want to breastfeed after a reduction, procedures in which the nipple isn’t completely severed (though it can be moved) result in the most milk production during breastfeeding. “It’s true that there’s the potential to decrease a women’s ability to breastfeed, but for the most part, the surgery should not reduce your chances of breastfeeding that much,” says Lee.
7. There’s a good trick to minimize scarring.
Although the surgeon’s technique can make a difference in how scars look, Lee points out that your genes mostly determine how you scar. “A surgeon can make 10 different scars on the same body part in 10 different people, and they will all look different,” he says. While scars generally fade and flatten over time, there are steps you can take to not only speed up that process but also minimize them even more. “The scar creams that are the most effective have some type of silicone gel in them,” says Lee. “After six months, scars seem to look a little bit better.” Lee also recommends Embrace, a tape that’s applied to scars that are two to four weeks old (or up to six months post-surgery) and worn for about eight weeks. The tape appears to minimize scarring by pulling the skin around the incision closer together. “One of the things we think contributes to bad scars is tension,” explains Lee. “The tape offloads the tension or stress on the scar, and scars may heal better that way.” Although these methods can be effective, it’s important to have realistic expectations: “There are always going to be scars when surgery is involved,” he says. “These scars do fade, but they are permanent.”
8. Get ready for a big self-esteem boost.
Large, pendulous breasts aren’t just heavy to carry around. They can also weigh down your self-esteem and get in the way of exercise. So it’s no surprise that a Finnish study found that up to a third of women who seek breast reduction surgery suffer from anxiety, depression, or both. But the same study showed that post-surgery, women report significantly less depression and higher self-esteem. A study in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that 80 percent of women rated their results from the surgery as “very good” or ” good” a year post-procedure. “Most patients are really happy with their choice of doing the surgery and immediately have relief from shoulder and back pain,” says Lee.
Dr. Conrad Tirre performs breast reduction surgery and we would welcome you to view our plastic surgery video on this procedure. Call our office to schedule a consultation to see if breast reduction surgery is right for you.
*Reprinted from Self Magazine March 2016