What should I know about breast reduction surgery?
June 28, 2005 2:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious about breast reduction surgery. What factors should I consider? How do I find a surgeon? Has anyone else here had this procedure done?

My frame is small, my boobs are big, my back is killing me, my parents' insurance might cover (most) of the cost of the surgery -- if I get it done within the next year-ish (i.e., before I finish school).

The pain is mid/upper back, much worse when I have to sit in a chair that doesn't support my back or stand for a long time, although some days it's not a problem. It's been getting worse over the past year. Some days it's unbearable. I don't want to let it get worse.

And, you know, I'd like to be able to fit into cute little camisoles. I've never had body image issues -- yeah, I should eat better and work out -- but I've recently become more aware of the degree to which these boobs just don't fit my body.

I'm concerned about recovery from the surgery. How long would I have to miss school? How extensive is the scarring? Would I be able to breastfeed? Are there many different ways they can do the incisions, or is there just one standard way? Will my coworkers treat me differently afterwards? Is this something I should tell them about ahead of time, or just show up bandaged and...uh, smaller after a few days off?

My fiance is supportive of whatever decision I make, and I'm sure his support will make this easier for me. I am curious about what men whose partners went through a procedure like this felt about the whole thing, too.

And yes, I should just go to the doctor and ask him all these things -- but I'm still just starting to wrap my mind around this whole concept. Give me some food for thought.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
My mother had breast reduction surgery when I was in my early 20's. She didn't tell me about it beforehand (we live in different cities). The first time I saw her afterwards, she greeted me with a *really* tight hug and exclaimed "Notice anything?".

Because of this mentally scarring episode, I highly recommend you tell anyone you hug on a regular basis about the procedure beforehand. Please.
posted by item at 3:25 AM on June 28, 2005


I am curious about what men whose partners went through a procedure like this felt about the whole thing, too.

I dated a girl who had a reduction. Really, we had two periods of dating-- when she had huge breasts and a few years later when she had B's. She's 5 feet tall or so.

The "relationship" was pretty tawdry, but the sex was not negatively affected. It was basically like having sex with a different girl-- she was thinner all over as a result (she felt) of the surgery. Originally, she was a well-padded girl with awesome tits. Later she was a small girl with a sexy little body. It was hard to miss her ginormous boobs when other parts of her body had changed for the better and she was so much more confident in bed.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if your boyfriend is really into big breasts, this could be tough. But if he's at all flexible, there will be emerging qualities that will make up for it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:30 AM on June 28, 2005


Working out could reduce your breasts to a manageable level. When I was weight training, my breasts got smaller, which surprised me, but it felt great. Breast reduction surgery is *surgery* (blood! pain! scarring! grossness!)- I would think it's a last resort, not the thing to do just because you're not interested in working out.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:51 AM on June 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


(blood! pain! scarring! grossness!)

I've got to add that my friend had only the tiniest amount of scarring-- a faint three or four inch line that was slightly lighter than the surrounding skin under each breast.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:11 AM on June 28, 2005


I'd rather not go into it all here, but if you'd like to hear a first-hand account, Anonymous, my email address is in my profile.
posted by stefnet at 5:34 AM on June 28, 2005


I've known two people who've had breast reduction surgery. I don't know a lot of the details you're asking for, but both people I know were really happy with the results. They were in less back pain and felt like they finally "fit" in their bodies, although the older woman still had permanent dents in her shoulders from decades of bra strap pressure. The younger woman lost more than five pounds from the surgery, which boggles my mind, and I was amazed at how thin she looked when she could start wearing more fitted clothing.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:05 AM on June 28, 2005


Had a couple of friends in college who got reduction surgery for the same reasons you mention. They did it over the summer...most people just assumed they'd lost weight. From what I understand, it's several weeks' recovery time. I know it's obvious, but make sure you're comfortable with the surgeon and that he/she is patient with your questions about scarring/breast feeding. Again, secondhand knowledge, but I hear that these things depend on your health, your shape, the skill of the surgeon, and luck. Both girls I knew were very happy afterwards, if that makes you feel any better.
posted by desuetude at 6:14 AM on June 28, 2005


As ThePinkSuperhero commented colorfully, it -is- surgery and you shouldn't enter into it lightly. If your only motivation is the back pain then there's a good chance it's something you can deal with exclusively through exercise (since you comment that you -should- which I take to mean you -don't-).

I've got a wicked cyatica issue that goes away if I get a moderate amount of exercise for my stomach muscles. They play a surprisingly large role in back stabilization.
posted by phearlez at 6:27 AM on June 28, 2005


My friend in college had it, and she wasn't overly happy with the results. She has residual pain (in her nipples!) and loss of feeling to her nipples too.

I'd look into diet and exercise first definitely. Also, remember that with surgery you should never make a rushed decision based on fears of being unable to "get" surgery later. You'll have medical insurance again once you start working, or if need be, you can start working the kind of job that gets you medical insurance.

Another anectode though: my sister (36 yo) has gigantic breasts, and never works out. She has massive back problems and is otherwise very unhealthy. So do get some form of exercise.
posted by lorrer at 6:46 AM on June 28, 2005


I had the surgery done a few years ago when I was in my mid 30s. I'd wanted it since I was 19, for many of the same reasons Anonymous said: I felt they didn't fit my shortish body. I avoided dancing and running and didn't own a bathing suit. I was very self-conscious and consequently slumped and round-shouldered. (I was 38D or DD, now 38B.) It was hard to buy shirts that fit, and certain clothing such as business suits looked absurdly matronly. I picked my surgeon from the list on the American Society of Plastic Surgeons web site (which has pictures and good explanations of the surgery, btw). He was excellent, respectful, eminently competent, and attentive. If you're in NY, his name is Karp.

The surgery was the worst part. They give you full anesthesia (breathing tube and all) and many people wake up in bad shape, with vomiting and nausea. To combat this, they admitted me to the hospital (not always done) and pumped me full of saline to flush the anesthetic out of me. Recovery was not terrible, however. They put a drain gadget in under my breasts that I had to empty into the toilet a few times a day. Gross and weird, but doable. I got a generous dose of Vicodin and that helped a lot :) I had to sleep in a bra and on my back for quite a while. IIRC, I took a week off from work and didn't return to regular exercise (except walking) for about a month.

I didn't tell anyone except family and close friends. I just let everyone else figure I had lost weight. My husband is fine with it and I'm sure he enjoys it that I wear tank tops now.

I think most people who have this surgery are happy with the results. I know I'm delighted that I had it done finally. Wish I hadn't waited so long. I do have scars but they don't bother me. You can't see them through a bra or bikini top, and anyway they fade with time.

I know there are a few breast-reduction stories on people's blogs and websites, google and you'll find them. Good luck with your decision!

On preview: I doubt that working out will help unless the OP is significantly overweight.
posted by scratch at 6:47 AM on June 28, 2005


I don't doubt it, scratch. I was never overweight at all, but weight training got rid of some stubborn fat pockets, including in my breasts, and I could definitely feel the positive difference in my body.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:00 AM on June 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


I've had two friends go through the procedure, and it has changed their lives for the better. I have checked out the results of one first-hand, and as been mentioned, scarring was minimal (especially after time) and there were no adverse long term side-effects. (Actually, her before-and-after photos appear in some textbook - she likes telling people that she's a textbook case.)

However, the list of possible side effects is sobering: as I understand it, a lot of stuff can go wrong with the nipple. One of my friends had an "inverted" nipple for a couple of months. There's a possibility of problems with breast-feeding in the future, and loss of sensation could be an issue. A good surgeon will be willing to counsel you about all this stuff before you sign up for anything.

In other words: what other people have said, largely. Just throwing a couple of more anecdotes on the pile.
posted by flipper at 7:10 AM on June 28, 2005


I did it when I was 24. Since then, I still have scarring, my nips are a little too excitable, leading people to think I'm MUCH happier to see them then I actually am, and I've gained weight in my torso rather than my breasts. I've lost weight in my back, mostly muscle. I won't be able to breastfeed.
All that aside, it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I actually cried the first time I went into a real lingerie store and bought something for myself - such a relief from the Sears Hefty Jugs bras I'd had to wear before. My back never hurts anymore, I no longer have tingling in my hands from the bra straps of the jug-holders cutting off circulation in my arms, and yes, shirts do fit normally. I don't have to wear two jog bras to participate in sports. I'm much more confident, my posture has improved, and I heart my new boobies.
The surgery is NO JOKE. Please choose a surgeon and a hospital very carefully, and research the surgeon and the anesthesiologist for suits and complaints. You'll be on your back with puss-filled shunts for at least two weeks, and then you'll be in recovery for at least six-twelve weeks. The skill of the surgeon has a lot to do with your recovery time and your long-term results.
posted by pomegranate at 7:10 AM on June 28, 2005


I had this surgery when I was 17 (I am now 37), and the one piece of advice I would give you is wait until you are sure you're done growing (everywhere) before you have it. Even if you are in your late teens/early 20's its possible your body hasn't reached its full adult size and shape.

I come from a family of very large breasted Russian women (my paternal grandmother was something like a 42G), and it became obvious at a very young age that I was going to follow in their footsteps. By the time I was in High School it wasn't possible for me to buy bras locally -- we had to mail order them from Boston (this is pre-internet, remember).

Upsides: I could buy and wear regular clothes, my back didn't hurt, my arms didn't hurt from the bra strap pressure cutting off circulation, I could bike and swim and hike and such without discomfort and embarrassment, I could just walk around the halls of my school my Senior year in High School without lewd comments and harassment (very big problem for a bookish and shy girl). I was (and am) more comfortable with myself.

Downsides: I had the surgery done too young and was only a 36C for about two years before my breasts started to size up again. However, part of that was due to medication-induced weight-gain, and even now at the weight I am at I feel that my breasts are in proportion to the rest of my body. I will probably never be able to breastfeed, but remember again I had the surgery 20 years ago, so things may have changed in that regard. I have noticeable scars on one side due to torn stitches from reaching over my head, so be careful during those first few post-op days. I have several numb spots on the same side where the scars are, and decreased sensation in my nipples.

I had the surgery done during the summer between my Junior and Senior years of High School, and actually had my Senior pictures taken about a week later, bandages under my shirt but you'd never know it. I had to wear a compression vest for a short period of time (a few weeks) to keep the dressings and everything in place -- I don't recall any drainage tubes such as scratch and pomegranate describe, although I was fully out for the surgery. I seem to remember that I went in the night before and had the surgery early in the morning, and went home that afternoon.

In college I was always worried that a sexual partner would mention the scars, but no one ever said anything about them.

Overall, I don't regret having it done, but I do regret having it done so young. I'm not sure I was able to make an informed decision about it at the time I had it done. I do regret that I will (probably) never be able to breastfeed.
posted by anastasiav at 7:39 AM on June 28, 2005


One thing to note: some asshole men (most of whom you probably won't even know very well) may take it upon themselves to attempt to dissuade you from having the operation (I believe this is because they see you as an object, not a person). Don't listen to them.

...I say this from having observed some of the remarks directed toward an acquaintance of mine who had reduction done. Perhaps her situation was unusual, although I don't personally think it was.
posted by aramaic at 9:25 AM on June 28, 2005 [1 favorite]


I was recently discussing this plastic surgery with a surgeon acquaintance at a party and I strongly second those who pointed out that it's quite serious surgery -- of course doable but it's no quick outpatient procedure like a breast augmentation is. reduction is way more complicated. procedures have gotten better, but post-reduction scarring is usually still more visible than post-augmentation scarring.
posted by matteo at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2005


This is sort of a portrait of someone who is NOT a good candidate for this procedure. I hope it helps.

I wanted this really bad a few years ago-- I was in my early 20s, 5'4", 108 lbs, with a 32D rack. My back hurt CONSTANTLY, and only serious pain meds helped. I thought I needed a breast reduction. I went into see someone, and the doctor told me that, #1, I didn't have it nearly as bad as I thought I did and that, #2, I needed to eat more because it was pretty obvious that my weight was low and that I was "engaging in dieting behavior" and that, #3 I needed to exercise because, yes, it looked like I was having some back problems, but mostly from slouching and sitting too long at a computer and wearing high heels and being an overall weakling.

So... I learned more about people who really can benefit from surgery, I put on a little weight over the years which evened my frame out a bit (my breasts are pretty much the same size), and I started working out-- pilates and yoga and anything strengthens your abs and back (your "core" is great!). Now I'm 120 lbs, 36C, and pain-free.
posted by lalalana at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2005


Scratch - I don't suggest working out will accomplish anything for her size & shape but I stick by my statement with regards to pain. The back is a complicated structure and is supported by a lot of musculature one wouldn't necessarily think is involved in back pain. The difference between no exercise at all and some is phenomenal.

From a completely cosmetic matter you should have the body that makes you happy. I'm personally inclined to think that it's better to be happy with the body one has if at all possible (since surgery has risks) but aside from that I say lop, chop, implant and extend to your heart's content! You're the one who has to live in that bod 24/7 so you're the only one whose opinion matters.
posted by phearlez at 10:34 AM on June 28, 2005


Another ample-bosomed chick here. I considered the procedure a few years ago. I was primarily concerned about two things--loss of sensation in the nipples (no fun there) and the inability to breastfeed.

Ultimately, though, what made me decide to put it off for at least a few more years was the stories I heard from women who had it done in their teens and 20s. I kept hearing again and again how once they got pregnant, their boobs ballooned up to their old size and stayed that way. Several of them said that they needed another reduction at this point.

I just as soon do it once and be done with it, so my plan is to consider it again once I've had kids.
posted by Sully6 at 10:57 AM on June 28, 2005


My sister did it when she was about 19 (she's 40 now). Overall, she was very happy with the results (she enjoyed looking slimmer overall, had less back pain, it was easier to exercise, and people would look at her face instead of her breasts, etc.), but I think as she's gotten older she's felt a little dissatisfied. She had some scarring that never quite went away (though it certainly faded for the most part), but her biggest disappointment was that it made breast-feeding nearly impossible. She also said once that she felt she reduced a little too much -- to a 36C, I believe, and she says she wishes she'd stayed a little bigger. (I have to admit that my A-cups and I had a hard time mustering much sympathy.)
posted by scody at 10:58 AM on June 28, 2005


I had a reduction 5 years ago, when I was 24. I am very dissatisfied with the results. I have almost total loss of sensation bilaterally and more scarring than I anticipated. Because of complications (I am apparently allergic to surgical tape), I had to undergo a second surgery about 6 months later. After all that, my breasts have grown back to almost the same size, 36 D, without any weight gain. However, I have several friends who have great results and are very happy with it. The procedure can vary a lot. When you discuss it with your doc, please listen to the risks involved very carefully and ask lots of questions about his results. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:47 AM on June 28, 2005


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