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How Breast Reduction can Relieve your Physical and Emotional Pain

Having large breasts is not just about hunting for decent bras. Large breasts can prevent women from living a normal, active lifestyle and being comfortable with their bodies. The extra weight from large breasts can also cause:

  • Neck, back, and shoulder pain
  • Skin irritation under the breasts or near bra straps
  • Discomfort when exercising
  • Headaches
  • Depression

Women’s breasts grow out of proportion to their body size for many reasons, including growth spurts from puberty, pregnancy, or weight gain. Fortunately, breast reduction surgery can be an effective, safe solution to ease physical pain and emotional distress caused by large breasts.

What is Breast Reduction Surgery?

In medical terms, breast reduction surgery is called reduction mammaplasty. During the procedure, a plastic surgeon will reduce your breast size by removing excess fat, glandular tissue, and skin.

    5 Steps of Breast Reduction Procedure

  1. You will be put under general anesthesia or sedated using an IV, based on your doctor’s recommendation.
  2. Your surgeon will make one of two types of incisions:

    Keyhole shape: The first incision goes around the areola. The second incision goes vertically from the bottom of areola down towards the breast crease — where the breast and chest meet.

    Anchor shape: The first two incisions are the same as the keyhole-shape incision. The final incision goes horizontally around the breast crease.

  3. Extra breast tissue will be taken out and the nipples will be resized and repositioned to make them look proportionate to the reduced breasts. The remaining tissue will be reshaped to give your breasts a lifted, natural look.
  4. Your surgeon will close the incision with skin adhesive and/or surgical tape.
  5. The surgery can last 3 to 5 hours and be performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you’ll go home the same day, or as an inpatient procedure with a one- or two-day stay in the hospital.

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Breast Reduction?

Like many other surgeries, undergoing breast reduction comes with both benefits and risks.

Risks of breast reduction include:

  • Temporary or permanent changes in nipple sensitivity
  • Post-operative pain, infection, or bleeding
  • Potentially not being able to breastfeed

On the other hand, breast reduction surgery has one of the highest satisfaction rates compared to other plastic surgery procedures:

  • Women who have had successful breast reductions report feeling reduced or no back pain, including alleviation of mild scoliosis or curves in the spine.
  • They also report being able to do more vigorous exercise, like dancing and running with no discomfort.
  • Significant improvement in body image is also a common result with women feel more confident.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering Breast Reduction

Am I a good candidate for breast reduction?

Breast reduction is not necessarily right for everyone who has large breasts. However, it may be right for you if you:

  • Regularly take pain medication or see a chiropractor to relieve chronic back, neck or shoulder pain
  • Have chronic skin conditions under your breasts
  • Have difficulty fitting into clothes sold in most of the stores because of your breast size
  • Do not have certain health conditions — such as diabetes –– which may increase your risk of infection or complications
  • Do not smoke
  • Are at a normal weight but your breasts still feel heavy.

Breast reduction may not be right for you if your breast size is related to weight problems. Significant weight gain can increase the size of your breasts. This means you may need to lose weight before undergoing breast reduction surgery to get the best results. If you have the breast reduction and then lose a significant amount of weight, this may affect your final result.

Am I at a good age to undergo breast reduction surgery?

Breast reduction surgery is not just for older women. However, you may want to consider postponing the surgery if:

  • Your breasts are not fully developed yet: If your breasts are still growing, you may end up needing another breast reduction later in your life — and you may not get covered by insurance because some insurances would consider the surgery as cosmetic if your breasts are still growing. However, surgery is also done in adolescent girls in certain circumstances.
  • You plan to have children in the future: Because pregnancy changes your breasts and may eliminate your ability to breastfeed, you may want to wait until after childbirth to undergo breast reduction.

Do I plan on breastfeeding in the future?

Many women who want to have a breast reduction surgery are of childbearing age. If you hope to breastfeed, talk to your surgeon before making the decision to undergo breast reduction. The ability to breastfeed may be limited after breast reduction surgery, or any breast surgery.

However, it is not necessarily impossible to breastfeed after reduction surgery, depending on the procedure technique used. If the milk duct system is preserved during the surgery, you will have better chance of successfully breastfeeding.

Preparing for Surgery

Following your surgeon’s instructions prior to the surgery can increase the chances of a successful surgery and recovery.

To prepare for surgery, talk to your physician about whether you should do the following:

  • Have a mammogram to make sure the breast tissue is healthy.
  • Stop taking certain medications and supplements that can increase bleeding during the surgery. It may take several days for the medication to completely leave your body. Make sure to ask your surgeon when you should stop taking before the surgery. Do not make any changes to your medication regimen without first consulting your physician.

On the day of the surgery:

  • Bring your insurance card and ID
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes and flat shoes
  • Follow physician instructions about when to stop eating and drinking
  • Have someone come with you to drive you home after the surgery

What Does Recovery Look Like?

The biggest concern after surgery is making sure your incision is healing and avoiding infection. If this happens, this is a medical emergency, and you should call your plastic surgeon immediately. You also want to be on guard for signs of necrosis, which occurs when breast tissue dies from not receiving enough oxygen.

When you come out of surgery, your breasts will be covered with dressings and bandages. Your surgeon may or may not place a thin tube under the skin temporarily to drain excess fluid and blood.

For the first week or two, your breasts may feel painful, tender, sensitive, swollen, and bruised. Your surgeon may recommend a support bra to minimize swelling.
During recovery, ask your plastic surgeon about how long you should avoid the following:

  • Wearing underwire bras
  • Lifting anything heavy
  • Raising your arms above your head
  • Working out or exercising

Also talk to your plastic surgeon about how long you should be off work or school. Above all, please follow the surgeon’s recovery instructions and keep up with follow-up appointments. This only helps you reach your desired end result.

Is Breast Reduction Surgery Covered by Insurance?

Breast reduction surgery is often very straightforward. Getting it covered by insurance, however, can be tricky. If your surgery is for medical necessity, such as alleviation of back pain, rather than for cosmetic purposes, you may be able to get some or all of the costs covered by insurance.

Oftentimes, you will need to provide sufficient proof that your need for a breast reduction is directly related to medical issues. Your insurance provider will likely require proof of the medical need. Be ready to send documentation of the following:

  • Persistent pain (documented by your physician or chiropractor) that has not been able to be successfully treated with therapies such as medications, physical therapy, spinal adjustment, massage therapy or weight loss.
  • Documentation that your breasts are fully developed — meaning your breast size has stayed the same for more than one year
  • A mammogram performed in the past 2 years before the surgery that is negative for breast cancer
  • The estimated amount of breast tissue to be removed from each breast, based on your plastic surgeon’s assessment

Each insurance company has different requirements for coverage. The best way to determine their requirements is to work with your plastic surgeon to contact them directly.

If you strongly believe you have a strong case for a medical need for a breast reduction, but your insurance denies covering the procedure, you can try to appeal their decision. This will involve submitting more documentation from your primary care physician and plastic surgeon, along with a letter explaining why you feel this surgery is medically necessary. Your plastic surgeon may also be able to talk with the insurance company on your behalf to appeal a denial.

Why Choose Stormont

Located in Topeka, Kansas, Stormont Vail Health is a community-driven organization. It offers close to home care and with limited travel requirements, it will be easier for you to get the care you need in a community you trust.

In 2018, Stormont Vail achieved Magnet designation for a third time. Magnet designation is one of the highest awards in nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. Only 9% of US hospitals have earned this recognition. The Joint Commission — with more than 50 years of accrediting hospitals in high quality standards — has also accredited Stormont Vail Hospital.

With several plastic surgeons and a nursing team that’s been recognized for excellence with the prestigious Magnet designation, Stormont Vail Health has an experienced and skilled medical team to help you explore whether breast reduction is right for you.

Next Steps

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  • Call (785) 270-4440 to schedule an appointment with your Stormont Vail primary care provider.
  • Not a Stormont Vail patient? Call (785) 270-4440 to set up your first appointment with one of our primary care providers.