Secrets About Breast Reduction Surgery
Breast reduction can go with little or no hitches. While most women who undergo breast reduction walk away happy with their decision—and their new breasts—there’s more to the procedure than a few hours under the knife. Here’s what you need to know—but probably haven’t heard—about breast reduction surgery.
1. Insurance may not cover it.
Frank A. Papay, MD, is a plastic surgeon with Cleveland Clinic who frequently performs breast reduction procedures. He says the cost for women is roughly $7,500. While many insurers cover the operation, that’s not always the case, says Robert Applebaum, MD, the Beverly Hills–based surgeon who performed Prince’s breast reduction.
Prince says she was unable to get coverage and paid for her reduction out of pocket. “I had to save for a while,” she says. O’Neillwasable to secure coverage for her surgery, but she had to come up with three letters from three different doctors before her insurer would foot the bill. Still, she strongly encourages other women to fight for coverage. “Whatever it takes,” she urges. “Ask for referrals from your doctor and don’t give up.”
2. You may have to lose weight before undergoing surgery.
If you’re carrying a lot of excess body weight—all over, not just in your bra—a doctor might suggest weight loss measures before recommending surgery. Dropping pounds could also shrink the size of your breasts, making an operation unnecessary. “This is something the patient and physician would discuss,” Papay says.
3. Other procedures may be involved.
Papay says some women may require additional shaping or contour work on the areas around the breasts, especially in the underarm region. Because this has more to do with appearance than health, some insurers may not cover this part of the procedure.
4. Post-op issues are common—though minor.
Roughly one in three women suffers from some type of complication within 30 days of the procedure, according toa 2014 studyin theJournal of Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery. Infection of the surgery site is the most common issue, but it’s fairly simple to treat, the study indicates. Infections may be especially common among women older than 50 who undergo the procedure, concludesa separate studyinPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
5. Recovery isn’t too rough.
“It is an outpatient procedure,” Applebaum says. After the surgery, patients are put in a soft cotton bra with no underwire and allowed to head home. “There is no wrapping or binding, and no drains after surgery,” he explains. Prince says, “It took, painwise, maybe a week [to subside].” O’Neill reports having absolutely no pain postsurgery. Both Papay and Applebaum say you can exercise on a limited basis after 2 weeks, and can expect a full recovery after 3 or 4 weeks.
6. But your breasts need time to settle.
An important part of the healing process is the “falling” of the breasts after surgery, which is exactly what it sounds like; the newly tightened and tucked skin will sag and settle a bit in the months following the procedure. According to Papay, it takes a few months for the breasts to arrive at their more-permanent state. The good news: Applebaum says your breasts will look natural in a bra immediately.
7. Your nipples may feel different.
Papay tells patients they may experience some degree of loss in nipple sensitivity. It’s also possible—though less likely—that your nipples will becomemoresensitive, he says. Applebaum says it really depends on your doctor’s methods. (For more on that, see the next section.)
8. Anchor or lollipop?
According to Applebaum, one of the biggest advancements in breast reduction surgery is French vertical mammoplasty, also known as the “lollipop” method. It requires fewer incisions than the traditional “anchor” method, and so tends to leave less noticeable scarring. Also, both Applebaum and Papay agree the lollipop method creates a more natural, rounded breast and leaves more breast tissue attached under the nipple. “When more tissue is left under the nipple, the woman is less likely to lose sensation in the nipple,” Applebaum says. So why doesn’t everyone opt for the lollipop method? For larger reductions, the lollipop method might not get the job done. For that reason, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the best method for you.
9. You may not be able (or willing) to breast-feed.
The procedure involves the removal of breast tissue, which can mess with your ability to breast-feed. Applebaum estimates 50% of his patients lose that ability. Even if youareable to breast-feed post-op, many women choose not to for fear their breasts will grow back to their old size. If you plan to have children and you hope to breast-feed, it may be prudent to hold off on the procedure until your breast-feeding years are behind you.
10. It’s not just for women.
A condition called gynecomastia can cause enlarged breasts in men. According to Papay, the condition can be brought on by medication, weight gain, or a hormonal imbalance. Pain and strain aren’t really issues for guys. “It’s more psychological,” Applebaum adds. Male sufferers don’t feel comfortable wearing tight clothing or exposing their bare chests, he says.
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