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Breast Surgery: 4 Sensitive Questions Answered by the Surgeon

Get answers to some of the most common questions patients ask about breast augmentation and reduction – straight from Carlie Thompson, MD – a board-certified breast surgeon. 

What are the plastic surgery procedures that are done on the breasts?

Plastic surgery performed on the breasts includes reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. 

Breast reconstructive surgery is done for patients being treated for cancer who have had breast tissue removed or patients born with a congenital deformity who need to have their breasts reconstructed. 

Breast cosmetic surgery is done for patients looking to enhance the size, shape, or aesthetic appearance of their breasts.

It is important for patients considering breast reduction surgery to understand that surgery is not a perfect science. Understanding and having reasonable expectations about the outcome of the surgery is essential.

Breast plastic surgery includes surgeries like breast augmentation, breast reduction, and breast lift. 

  • Breast augmentation involves the use of breast implants and /or fat grafting, which is when a doctor takes fat from another part of the patient's body and injects it into the breasts, to increase the size or volume and enhance the shape of the breasts. 
  • Breast reduction, or reduction mammoplasty, is done to decrease the size and enhance the shape of the breasts. 
  • Breast lift, or mastopexy, is done to improve the shape, contour, and position of the breasts. 

These procedures - breast augmentation, breast reduction, and breast lift - can be done alone or in combination, and the goal of these procedures is to enhance the appearance of the breasts.

Breast Pain: Period or Pregnancy?

Breast Pain: Period or Pregnancy?

Who may need breast reduction surgery? 

Breast reduction surgery is done to remove breast tissue in an attempt to reduce the size and volume of the breasts and to optimize the size, and shape of the breasts. 

This surgery is done for patients who have large or extra-large breasts and their breasts are causing some sort of physical, mental or emotional distress, such as neck, shoulder, and back pain and psychological distress from living with very large breasts. 

Breast reduction surgery can be done for a number of reasons, but the ultimate goal is to reduce the size of the breasts and to give the patient what they feel is a more proportional breast size for their body.

What are the benefits and risks of breast reduction surgery?

Benefits

The benefits of breast reduction surgery include the relief of physical, mental, emotional, or psychological discomforts that a patient might be experiencing from having large breasts, such as:

  • Relief of neck, shoulder, or back pain
  • Alleviation of other physical consequences associated with having large breasts, such as infections that occur in the crease under the breast tissue 
  • Increased body confidence
  • Relief of psychological and mental distress that comes along with having very large breasts.   

Risks

The risks of breast reduction surgery, like any other surgery, include bleeding and infection. 

Another category of risks associated with breast reduction surgery is unfavorable scarring. This scarring can happen on the skin and within the breast tissue, where it can be felt as a lump or discomfort in the breast. Scarring within the breast tissue can also lead to abnormalities on mammograms. 

Some other risks that patients need to be aware of are the potential inability to breastfeed and the possibility of needing a revisional surgery. 

It is important for patients considering breast reduction surgery to understand that surgery is not a perfect science. Understanding and having reasonable expectations about the outcome of the surgery is essential.

What preparation is needed before the surgery?

The first step for women considering breast reduction surgery is to meet with a well-trained and qualified surgeon that has plenty of experience doing this operation.

In the United States, breast reduction surgeries are typically done by plastic surgeons.

Questions to ask the surgeon during the visit: 

  • How much experience do you have doing this operation?
  • What are the risks of the operation? 
  • What is the expected recovery? 
  • Am I going to need to stay in the hospital? 
  • What are reasonable expectations for the outcome of the surgery? (Here the surgeon might have pictures that they could show the patient of breast reduction surgeries that they've done in the past.) 
  • Will I have drains after the surgery? 

Drains are small tubes that drain fluid from the surgical area so that it doesn't collect and become infected.

Drains are small tubes that drain fluid from the surgical area so that it doesn't collect and become infected.

During the visit with the surgeon, the surgeon will assess the patient's candidacy for the operation and potentially take some preoperative photos. Then, if the patient decides to proceed with the surgery, the surgeon might want the patient to undergo an evaluation by their primary care physician and have blood work done. 

If the patient is a smoker, the surgeon might ask or encourage the patient to stop smoking well ahead of the surgery. 

In preparation for the surgery, it is also important to arrange to take time to recover and have help available. 

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