Breast reductions have become a popular option for women and teenagers whose breasts are causing them health issues.
Somehow it’s still a sort of shock when we listen that someone is getting a breast reduction surgery, which is actually known formally as reduction mammoplasty. I remember being confused when a friend of my mom had one when I was a teenager with almost no breasts myself. Yes, her boobs were huge, and she had so many back issues because of that, but somehow in my mind that didn’t make any sense, since we’re told that the ideal boobs are firm and big. So, I bet I’m not the only one who has experienced that kind of shock when hearing about this, since it would seem that the most common mammoplasty in plastic surgery is actually getting bigger implants. Well, you’re going to be surprised to know that in the past years the breast reduction is one of the most popular surgeries, and more than that, that every year more and more teenagers are actually resorting this procedure.
It isn’t only a matter of back issues and pain. There are many other reasons that make women want to reduce the size of their boobs. They may wish smaller boobs out of comfort to do their daily activities or even because they want to increase their self-esteem. The issue with the breast reduction surgery seems to be that it is still considered only a matter of looks and not really something that can affect your overall health. I find it really impressive that breast reductions are often categorized as a cosmetic operation, which I do believe only feeds the taboo attached to it. Now, the reason why this practice has increased so much in the past decade has to do with different factors attached to macromastia, the term for excessively large breasts.
According to Dr. Brian Labow (director of the Adolescent Breast Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital), in a study made by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there seems to be a larger number of cases of macromastia because nowadays girls are reaching puberty earlier due to an excessive consumption of hormones in our daily diets. Talking about diets, macromastia is also widely associated with obesity, which has become a global epidemic. This is kind of understandable, but as Labow explains, there’s also an environmental estrogen crisis in the atmosphere caused by the increase of xenoestrogens, substances that mimic the hormones we naturally produce and that end up having an impact in the early development of breasts in younger girls. So, if you’re actually considering getting a breast reduction, there are some things you have to take into account because, after all, we’re talking about a surgical procedure that must not be taken that lightly.
You have to qualify for the surgery
The first thing is that you must qualify for the operation, and there are many things to take into account for you to match the profile needed. According to the National Health Service of the UK, you’re only eligible for a reduction mammoplasty after undergoing a thorough process that goes from wearing special bras, to going to a physiotherapist to assert that you’re having back problems due to the size of your breasts, among many other factors. Basically, what they want to say is that you’re only eligible if you prove that you’ve tried basically everything and you haven’t had any health improvement. Besides that, they also take into account the size of your breasts, and if you have the appropriate tissue that will support such an invasive surgery.
It takes some time to recover from it
It’s not only a matter of going to the surgeon, getting the mammoplasty, going home, and being happy. This is a surgery that takes a lot of time to recover from, even after your doctor discharges you from the hospital. You’ll have to wear special post-surgery bras for a while, and you’ll have to forget about activities that require physical effort (even random stuff like going shopping or doing normal errands) until you’ve healed completely. Now, although this depends a lot on each person, you must consider that it will take you at least three months to recover.
You could lose some sensation
Another important thing to consider is that, like with any surgery, there are risks that might occur like infections, clots, and even allergic reactions to the anesthetic or other meds you might be given. However, that’s not it. With mammoplasties there’s a risk of actually losing sensation in your nipples and tissue around them, since they actually remove them during the procedure. Although in most cases this is temporary (it could take from a couple of months up to a couple of years to actually recover the sensation), there are some registered cases of permanent loss of nipple sensation. Also, there’s a slight possibility of actually getting hyper-sensitive in that area, which could lead to constant pain.
It can be an uncomfortable and painful process
Again, as it happens with any surgery, you’ll experience pain during the recovery period. One of the common symptoms you might experience is soreness during the first days after the surgery and constant pain with movement, which is pretty normal. Now, this also depends a lot on the person’s pain scale, but still, the recovery can really be an uncomfortable experience, since basically any movement can produce pain or give you the sensation of your stitches getting ripped.
This one shouldn’t be driven for cosmetic reasons
Unlike the popular belief, this isn’t a surgery that’s driven for cosmetic purposes. To start with, still today the procedure can leave some visible marks and scars on the nipple area. It’s not that you’re going to get horrible boobs afterward. What happens is that even when you’re absolutely sure this is what you want and need, sometimes it takes some time to get used to them. Now, going back to the scarring, according to the NHS, these can actually provoke an alteration of the shape and overall look of your breast, especially if you're going for an extreme breast reduction. Finally, something many don’t take into account is that the tissue is still prone to change with pregnancies, weight loss or gain, and even hormone alterations, so you have to really get constant check-ups to avoid any dramatic impact on your breasts.
To conclude with our conversation, let’s go back to Dr. Labow. He’s actually been working on for the past years in the impact of macromastia in a girl or woman’s quality of life, self-esteem, and overall health, not to mention a risk of increasing eating disorders. While he strongly believes that surgery isn’t the answer for everyone, the conversation needs to be made in mainstream media to shatter the taboo about it and help women feel freer to take a decision about their bodies without caring about what society believes.
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Images by Alice Skinner