Breast reduction

Things to consider

Breast reduction should only be considered by women who have taken medical advice from a qualified cosmetic, plastic or breast surgeon.

Many patients gain a better quality of life following a breast reduction as symptoms, such as back pain, are often dramatically reduced. However, any kind of surgery, including breast reduction, should not be undertaken lightly. You may feel it will improve your appearance and quality of life but it can be expensive and time consuming and, as with any form of surgery, there are a number of risks.

The decision to have a breast reduction should only be taken after a lot of careful thought and questioning.

Do your research

If you feel that you will benefit from a breast reduction, it is important that you are as well informed as possible.

Talk to your GP to get information and general advice on the procedure, and look into the surgeons, hospitals and clinics that perform breast reductions.

Your GP should refer you to an appropriate surgeon who can discuss your problems, examine you and advise you about the options available, along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Do not be nervous about asking for information from your GP or a surgeon. The Department of Health has a checklist of questions about cosmetic surgery that can help you get all the details you need to make an informed decision on whether surgery is right for you.

Choosing a surgeon

Surgeons who are trained in general surgery should have FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) after their name. Surgeons trained in plastic surgery in the UK will usually have FRCS(Plast) after their name.

Doctors who are also considered to be suitably trained are listed on the specialist register kept by the General Medical Council (GMC). You can find out if a doctor is on the specialist register by calling the GMC on 0845 357 0022.  The register does not tell you what the doctor is a specialist in.

Before choosing a surgeon, find out about their experience of doing breast reductions and make sure you meet them before committing to surgery.

When you find a surgeon, be honest and clear about your expectations of the procedure and find out if a breast reduction can really give you the results you want. A surgeon should provide full details of the procedure before you decide to go ahead with it. Expect the consultation to take half an hour or longer.

Expected results

It is important to discuss the results you expect from surgery with your surgeon. Sometimes, a very radical reduction will alter the shape and look of the breasts. There will be scarring and sometimes also a loss of nipple function and sensitivity.

For women with very large breasts, the benefits of a reduction may outweigh any potential imperfections. For women with only moderately large breasts, the benefits may not be worth the potential risks and side effects.

Your breasts can still change in size and shape after surgery. They should not regrow, unless the operation is done at an age when your breasts are still growing, but they can increase in size if you put on weight or become pregnant. They can also decrease in size if you lose weight. Normal breasts also have a tendency to droop over time.

Arranging for surgery outside the NHS

You will be asked to sign an agreement form before having your breast reduction procedure. Make sure you understand and are happy with the agreement before you sign.

The agreement should include details of cost. Make sure you understand what this covers, especially in terms of aftercare and any revision surgery (surgery to treat any complications or problems) that may be needed. There may also be financial penalties if you decide to cancel the agreement.

Your records

The provider of your procedure, a private clinic or hospital, will keep a record of your treatment that may contain before and after photographs of you. Think about whether you would mind the provider showing these to other potential patients. The provider should ask for your consent before showing any part of your records to other patients.

Surgery abroad

Cosmetic surgery, such as breast reduction, may be cheaper abroad than it is in the UK. However, this needs to be weighed up against the cost of travel and accommodation and any follow-up or revision surgery that may be needed.

If you are not confident that the procedure you are having is safe, it could end up being more costly in terms of risk, pain, revision surgery and aftercare.

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Last updated: 04 October 2011

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