If you have disproportionately large breasts, breast reduction surgery may boost your body image and open the door to a more active lifestyle. Large, heavy breasts can interfere with exercise and cause constant neck, shoulder and back pain. Your bra straps may leave raw, painful grooves in your shoulders, and you may have trouble maintaining healthy posture.
Breast reduction surgery, or reduction mammoplasty, can reduce your breast size, giving you the freedom to be more active and live without chronic pain. If you’re thinking about breast reduction surgery, consider its risks and costs as well as the benefits that this reconstructive procedure has to offer.
Before you decide to have a breast reduction, it’s important to have realistic expectations about the results of the procedure. Meet with several plastic surgeons to discuss how reduction mammoplasty is performed, how surgery will affect your figure and what you can expect after recovery.
During the procedure, a surgeon reduces your breast size by removing excess glandular tissue and fat. Excess skin may be removed to lift and reshape your breasts. After surgery, you may have an anchor-shaped scar circling each nipple and running down the lower aspect of each breast. Depending on how the surgery is performed, you may notice diminished sensation in your nipples after reduction mammoplasty. Because breast reduction affects glandular tissue, breast-feeding may be difficult or impossible.
Although a plastic surgeon will remove excess tissue from your breasts, he or she may not remove fat from the surrounding areas. Some surgeons will perform liposuction during breast reduction to reshape the areas below the patient’s breasts and arms; however, this step may add to the cost of your surgery. If your insurance company is paying for the procedure, your policy may not cover cosmetic liposuction. If you have unwanted fat tissue in areas around your breasts, talk with a surgeon about how these regions can be contoured during surgery and how much this extra step will cost.
Even the most skilled plastic surgeon may not achieve perfect symmetry in your breast size and nipple placement. In some cases, women need further surgery to correct or refine the results. You are most likely to be satisfied with the way you look after breast reduction if you are at a healthy weight and have a strong body image before the procedure. Breast reduction surgery will not give you a flawless body, but reshaping your breasts may make your figure more proportionate and increase your satisfaction with your appearance.
Paying for Breast Reduction
If you have medical insurance, your insurance provider may cover your surgery if you and your health-care providers can prove that breast reduction is medically necessary. Insurance companies differ in their approach to determining medical necessity. Some companies use a mathematical formula to decide whether a woman’s breasts are out of proportion to her height and weight, while others will authorize surgery based on a doctor’s documentation of symptoms.
Most insurers require photographs of your body, a written record of your height, weight and symptoms and an estimate from the surgeon of the amount of breast tissue to be removed. Your insurance company may ask for a letter from a primary care provider or other health professional stating that you have tried other methods for relieving your pain, such as weight loss, exercise, physical therapy or pain medication. Obtaining authorization for breast reduction surgery can be a smooth, straightforward process or a long, frustrating battle, depending on your insurance company and the nature of your symptoms.
If your insurance provider will not cover the cost of surgery, you may pay for the surgical procedure and hospital care out of pocket. Surgeons and hospitals require that you pay for all services before the procedure. Your plastic surgeon’s office can refer you to medical financing companies that offer loans to women considering elective surgery. Check offers from several lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive, affordable interest rate.
Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon
If you’re considering surgery, meet with several cosmetic or reconstructive surgeons. Look for a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or an equally respected professional association. A caring, competent professional will take time to explain how breast reduction is performed, describe the potential results, evaluate your body shape and answer all of your questions. Although cost is a key concern for self-pay patients, the training, expertise and demeanor of your surgeon are the most important considerations. You should feel comfortable and secure with the surgeon you choose.
In spite of its risks and costs, breast reduction is a liberating experience for many women. Freedom to participate in new activities, compete in sports and enjoy life without constant neck, back and shoulder pain are among the most significant benefits. Straighter posture, a slimmer figure and the ability to wear form-fitting clothes make many patients feel that having surgery was the right decision.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2011) Breast Reduction. Retrieved from plasticsurgery.org/Reconstructive-Procedures/Breast-Reduction.html
MayoClinic.com. (2009) Breast Reduction Surgery. Retrieved from mayoclinic.com/health/breast-reduction-surgery/MY00778