In a recent interview, 18 year old actress Ariel Winter described her breast reduction surgery - which took her from a painful 32F cup size to a 34D - as “an instant weight lifted off my chest, both literally and figuratively”.
[right: before and after breast reduction surgery with Dr Sharp]
With breast sizes increasing, breast reduction surgery has also grown in popularity along women and men. Between 1997 and 2013, the number of breast reductions rose by 157%, according the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
The increase is not just due to increasing cup size, but also because people are becoming more informed as to what their options are, more people have private health insurance - and the stigma that was once associated with plastic surgery has dissipated.
Dr Sharp recommends that people considering breast reduction surgery should consider five things before undergoing surgery:
1. The impact of pain or discomfort caused by large breasts
Carrying extra weight on your chest can cause significant discomfort. Ariel Winter said the physical pain is what ultimately led her to choose surgery. Typically felt in the lower back, neck or shoulders - as well as headaches and chest pain - the discomfort of large breasts often necessitate the use of regular painkillers. Chronic pain can impact a woman’s ability to undertake healthy physical activity, their sleeping patterns, sex life and also their mental health. A study published in 2013 found that patients who underwent breast reduction surgery not only experienced less pain, but also a significant improvement in the quality of their sleep and their ability to exercise.
On a 100-point scale, patients reported that their satisfaction with breast appearance increased from 20 (prior to surgery) to more than 80 afterward the procedure. Sexual wellbeing increased from a rating of 40 to 78 and physical wellbeing from 43 to 81.
2. The impact of size on your self esteem and confidence
Second to complaints about neck and back pain, this is one of the main frustrations for women with excessively large breasts. Often they find it difficult to source clothes that feel comfortable and look good, and they feel self conscious when trying to exercise, swim or even doing normal interactions, such as hugging someone. Overly large breasts can also attract unwanted attention or comments. Sometimes in an attempt to hide the size of their breasts, women slouch or acquire poor posture habits, which only exacerbates their shoulder, neck and back pain.
Plastic surgery will never ‘fix’ low self esteem, but it can contribute to changes in lifestyle, self image and daily habits that culminate in a more positive outlook and higher confidence levels.
3. Your expectations and likely results
Every breast reduction is unique, as is every body. Sometimes patients have an ‘ideal’ breast size and shape in mind that may not be realistic on their frame. While your surgeon can estimate your final size, the actual cup size and breast shape is not something that can be absolutely guaranteed prior to surgery. Swelling or scar development and maturation can mask the final result for some time, so patience is vital. Patients can find it difficult to adjust to their new size and position. Before you undergo surgery, it is very important to have an honest discussion with your surgeon about how reduction surgery will change your breasts, what’s realistically achievable and the anticipated results.
That said, breast reduction surgery has one of the highest post operative satisfaction levels. According to consumer forums, 97% of patients who undergo breast reduction surgery rate it as worthwhile. In a 2012 study, 80% of patients rated their results as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ one year after surgery.
Despite being listed on the MBS, breast reduction surgery still involves significant out of pocket costs due to low health fund rebates. If you have private health insurance with eligible level of cover, a portion of your surgeon’s and anaesthetic fees will be rebated by your health fund and Medicare, and all of your hospital fees (minus your excess payment) should be covered, representing a saving of anywhere between $2,400 to $9,000 depending on your chosen hospital and length of inpatient stay (i.e. day surgery or multiple nights). So it is worthwhile checking to see if you are covered. To confirm your cover, ask your fund if item number 45520 is covered by your policy.
If you don’t have private health insurance, but you are eligible for Medicare, you will still receive a partial rebate on your surgeon’s fee and anaesthetic fee - however your hospital fee will be 100% out of pocket. Day surgery rates for breast reduction surgery start at $2,400.
5. Recovery and complications
Dr Sharp performs breast reduction surgery as both day surgery or with an inpatient stay, depending on the suitability of each patient. If you go home on the day of surgery, you will have drains in place which will be removed in our clinic in the first few days after your surgery. You will then return at 1 week, 6 weeks and 20 weeks post operatively for check ups (or more if needed). If you have an inpatient stay in hospital, this can involve anywhere from 1 to 5 nights as an inpatient. The early recovery period takes up to 2 weeks; during this time you will need assistance with driving/transport and will need to take time off work, or work from home if your job permits. During the first 6 weeks you must avoid heavy lifting or exertion, and limit yourself to gentle, light activities. After the 6 week mark, you can begin to ease back into normal activities. Potential breast reduction post operative complications include infection, seroma (a collection of fluid), haematoma (a collection of blood), fat/skin necrosis or wound ‘breakdown’ at the T junction (where the vertical and horizontal scars meet). These complications usually resolve without requiring admission to hospital, but if you don’t have private health insurance to cover further private hospitalisation, it’s worthwhile considering how you will afford the cost of potential complications should they arise. Before your surgery it’s also important to consider these short term impacts, as well as the long term effect on things such as breastfeeding, sensation.
Once you have considered the above factors, schedule a consultation with a qualified specialist plastic surgeon to discuss whether the operation is right for you.