Some women develop disproportionately large breasts during puberty. This can cause health problems, and issues with self-esteem throughout life. Sometimes the problems caused by very large breasts can lead to a decision to have them surgically reduced – a breast reduction operation (or reduction mammoplasty).

Most women do not decide to have surgery as breast reduction is a large operation requiring several weeks off work, however if they suffer from physical problems such as neck and backache, headaches, numbness and pain in the hands, shoulder pain, or other problems such as lewd comments made by men, or the inability to partake in sports, the benefits of having a breast reduction operation outweigh any negative factors.

In these women’s cases, their quality of life can be significantly improved by breast reduction surgery. Grooves in the collar bone and shoulders caused by bra straps can slowly heal due to there being less weight to support. Excessive sweating and associated skin conditions can be eliminated, and other pain and discomfort relieved.

This article on breast reduction surgery is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

After breast reduction surgery, women feel less self-conscious and freer, able to do more activities, and lie more comfortably in bed. Breast reduction surgery can give your body a more balanced look, evening up the proportions and enhancing your self-esteem.

However, it’s important to remember that if you put on a lot of weight, the size of your bust will increase once again, but also decrease if you lose weight.

Women best suited to this operation have a stable weight and are not planning to breastfeed in the future. Breast reduction surgery means that you will be unable to breastfeed and may lose nipple sensation.

What causes disproportionately large breasts?

There are several different reasons why some women have very large breasts:

  • An over-sensitivity to the sex hormone oestrogen during puberty
  • Hormonal changes after the menopause
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Heredity factors

What happens during a breast reduction operation?

During breast reduction surgery (mammoplasty), excess fat, glandular tissue, and skin are removed from the breast to reduce weight and volume. The nipples will usually need to be detached and reattached in a new position. In many cases, they can remain connected to blood vessels and nerves, but sometimes it’s not possible, and although they will always be reconnected you may experience a permanent loss of sensation in the nipples and areola.

A breast reduction operation normally takes between two to four hours and is performed under general anaesthetic. The surgeon makes an incision around the areola, vertically down the breast and underneath in the fold below. Excess fat, tissue, and skin are removed through these cuts and the nipple and areola repositioned. Skin is pulled across from both sides of the breasts to give a new, smaller and more pert shape, and closed with stitches. After the operation, they will be wrapped in dressings and a soft supportive bra. You will also have two small tubes attached to drain away bleeding and fluids. These will be removed when the bleeding slows to a specified rate.

After the operation, you will need to rest and take approximately two weeks off work. Physical exercise and heavy lifting should be avoided for at least six weeks, and you will be advised to wear a soft, supportive bra, day and night, for about a month.

Side effects and complications

Having a breast reduction causes permanent scars, but it’s a commonly performed operation and considered to be generally safe. There are always risks associated with having an operation, such as an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic, infection, bleeding, and clotting, but again, these are fairly rare. You will also have sore, tender breasts for a while, with some swelling and bruising in the nearby area.

After a breast reduction, it’s most likely you won’t be able to breastfeed in the future. You may also have permanent loss of sensation in the nipples.

Only you can decide if a breast reduction operation will be worth undergoing in order to reduce the size of your breasts. However, many women are happy with the result and find a new lease of life without the weight, discomfort, and inconvenience of very large breasts.

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