My Mom wants a skin bra. Am I right to be concerned?
July 13, 2008 9:43 AM   Subscribe

My Mom has announced she is getting surgery for a 'skin bra'. I'm concerned but cannot find much information about the procedure, potential complications, or whether I should attempt to dissuade her.

My Mom is a very fit woman in her late fifties. She and my Dad exercise regularly and participate in marathons- she is very toned and has focused on core strengthening for the last five years. She is in tip top condition, but recently she's become more and more dissatisfied with how her breasts hang on her chest. She is a modest B cup but her breasts have become flabby even though she is at the low end of her ideal weight range.

She told me today that she is planning to get plastic surgery for what she calls a 'skin bra' and is planning to go with the plastic surgeon that her internist knows in Los Angeles. I can't find much information on this technique and am not sure if I should be concerned.

Beyond telling her that any surgery in which general anesthesia is used is dangerous and should be avoided, is there anything medically relevant I should know about this procedure? What risks is she opening herself up to?

To clarify, I'm not interested in arguments such as helping her find better bras, bras that lift, doing more weight lifting on her chest, telling her to being happy with the body she's in- she's a scientist and the only way to dissuade her from this course (if indeed I should dissuade her) is through facts. Also, she has no problem with cosmetic surgery- she had a face lift ten years ago and thought it was a great experience. Right now the only thing I've got is the fact that so little information on the procedure seems to be available, which sets off warning flags for me.

Any help, personal experiences, or anecdotes (such as 'my wife got this years ago, don't worry' or the reverse) would be vastly appreciated. I set up a throwaway email address if you'd prefer to reply anonymously or have any questions:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
I'm wondering if she is getting her breasts "lifted", AKA Mastopexy. As women get older, their breasts become less dense (less connective tissue) and more fatty. It's part of aging. Getting a "lift" puts them back in a more anatomic position and they usually take off excess skin at the same time.

You may ask her if she is getting a mastopexy. She may have been trying to give you a term she thought you would understand instead of the technical term.
posted by 6:1 at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2008

i believe what she's talking about is a breast lift. they are popular among older women who have had children, as the milk issue (whether or not they breastfed) can sap a lot of perkiness from the girls. if she is a runner, it may be more comfortable as well.

the procedure is related to a breast reduction (or really, is the finishng component of one), which a sister and a friend have both had, and are very happy with.

i don't think this is a crazy thing to want to do, or any more dangerous than any other elective procedure.
posted by thinkingwoman at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2008

It sounds like she is talking about this procedure, which seems to be relatively new. From the limited descriptions I've found on the web, it sounds like it's something like a traditional breast lift surgery, but with the excess skin reused as an "internal bra" to provide longer-lasting support and prevent the need for further breast lift surgeries.

If you want to dissuade her, it's probably best to focus on the risks involved with general anesthesia and plastic surgery. Since the procedure appears to be a modification of a standard breast lift procedure, you can probably get more specific information about the risks associated with that procedure and add that to your arsenal.

If she's dissatisfied with her breasts, though, she might not heed your warnings - so be prepared for that possible outcome.

IANAPS or doctor or anything, just a person who has a lot of friends who've had breast procedures done (augmentations and reductions only though, no lifts, so I can't provide anecdotes that are relevant to your specific situation).
posted by bedhead at 9:56 AM on July 13, 2008

I thought she might talking about the cup&up a 'bra' that attaches to your collar bone. That freaks me right the hell out.
posted by dabitch at 9:57 AM on July 13, 2008

I have never heard of the term, "skin bra". I'm guessing she is talking about a breast lift and the new technique bedhead linked to. A breast lift is rarely done without an implant. So, she may be getting a lift and an implant.

All surgery has risks. If she is set on it , and confident with her doctors, I wouldn't try to dissuade her. She has probably talked about this at length with her surgeon. Her surgeon has surely explained the risks, because it is his responsibility to do so. She is your mom and I can understand you worry, but it's not really your business to dissuade her if you're thinking of it. All you can do is be supportive. I'm not trying to be flip, but hundreds of breast cosmetic surgeries are done daily. Most likely she'll be fine.
posted by LoriFLA at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2008

From what I can remember (and it's been a few years) it's basically the new and less radical form of a breast lift. Here is a site that talks about it. She also might be talking about this surgery. I am not 100% clear on the difference between the two. This is very second hand information, but I believe that on the scale of plastic surgeries this is a more minor one, certainly looks less invasive that a breast life or augmentation, but it's usually performed in conjunction w/ another surgery, so you might want to clarify if she's also getting a lift. From what I've been told it essentially makes it so that small chested women don't really have to wear a bra, which obviously has its perks. IANAD
posted by whoaali at 10:09 AM on July 13, 2008

As you say your mother is a scientist and will only consider rational backed up arguments she is likely to (have) discuss(ed) the procedure in detail with her surgeon and probably appreciates the risks. So the best thing you can do is check that she has indeed done her homework - encourage her to do so if she hasn't - and then let her do what she has to do.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:14 AM on July 13, 2008

My sister's having a tummy tuck. I asked, dragging the word out, "abdominoplasty?" She said, "Don't call it that! It sounds painful!" She ran out of the room when I started mentioning scalpels, staples, subcutaneous fat, heh heh. She's had cosmetic surgery before and already knows it hurts a lot -- but she justs wants to focus on the benefits. "Skin bra" might be one of those cute, fun-sounding names that make a real surgical procedure sound simple; or it might be some unproven shortcut that she'll regret later. Ask your mother what other names it goes by, and who her surgeon is. I think it's good that you're checking it out; my siblings and I middle-aged men and women often fall for gimmicky stuff that promises to make them look younger.
posted by wryly at 10:18 AM on July 13, 2008

Last year a friend of mine, a woman in her 50s, and a fanatical runner (4-5 times a week, half-marathons, veterans' competitions), had a breast lift and reduction. She went from probably an F/G cup to a B/C cup. No implants, just lift/reduce.

She was delighted with the look of them, but was horrified to be told by her surgeon that if she resumed running then her breasts would drop again, no matter how good a sports bra she wore.

So vanity won and she gave up running.
posted by essexjan at 10:49 AM on July 13, 2008

it's her boobs, her decision
posted by matteo at 11:19 AM on July 13, 2008 [8 favorites]

Er, surgery with general anesthesia is not necessarily dangerous as long as there's a competent anesthesiologist.
posted by kldickson at 1:55 PM on July 13, 2008

Anesthesia risks, while true, are overrated. If your mother is otherwise healthy and lives more than 10 miles from the hospital, the car trip to and from the hospital is probably more dangerous than undergoing general anesthesia.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:28 PM on July 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

I agree about the anesthesia risks - they're overrated. My concern with any surgery is maybe underrated - bacterial infections.

"Infections contracted in hospitals are the fourth largest killer in America. Every year in this country, two million patients' contract infections in hospitals, and an estimated 103,000 die as a result, as many deaths as from AIDS, breast cancer, and auto accidents combined."
posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:32 PM on July 13, 2008

Perhaps you should trust your mother's judgement on this decision. Seeing how she has a scientific back ground I have to imagine she has weighed the risks against the benefits and came to the conclusion that this is right for her. Although, to show you care, I would simply express your concerns and offer her support during recovery. Since there is little information available you might base your feelings on this fact alone and see where the conversation goes from there.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:48 PM on July 13, 2008

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