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Breast Reduction

Frequently Asked Questions: Breast Reduction

Last modified: 
20/03/2012 - 12:23

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to breast reduction.

Q: I'm thinking of having breast reduction surgery, but I'm worried about breast cancer. Will breast reduction make it more likely that I will develop breast cancer?

A: No. The surgery does not increase the risk for cancer, nor does it interfere with routine screening techniques for finding breast lumps later. In fact, some women may find that having mammograms is easier after breast reduction, and lumps may be easier to find when breasts are less massive. The tissue removed during reduction surgery will be examined under a microscope for signs of cancer, so in some ways, the operation itself is like a giant biopsy. Fat removed by liposuction is also examined under a microscope. Recent studies have shown that women who had breast reduction surgery actually have a slightly lower rate of breast cancer than did other women. Coincidentally, the same study found that women who had the operation also have somewhat lower rates of lung, cervical, and digestive cancers.

Q: Is breast reduction surgery covered by insurance?

A: If the procedure is deemed medically necessary because of neck or back pain, some insurance plans will cover it. They usually require that a minimum amount of fat be removed to qualify, often in the range of 500 grams (the equivalent of 1.1 pounds), depending on height and weight. The doctor usually must write a "predetermination letter" to the insurance company beforehand to confirm that it will be covered.

Q: My daughter is 16 and wants to get breast reduction surgery. Is that too young?

A: Surgeons generally require that breasts be fully developed before they will consider performing a reduction procedure. Breasts are usually fully grown by age 18. In some cases, if the discomfort is very bad, reduction surgery can be done at a younger age.

Q: Will I be able to nurse my baby after I have breast reduction surgery?

A: In many cases the milk ducts leading to the nipple are cut during breast reduction surgery. However, some women find that they can breast-feed after surgery, at least partially. Most need to supplement their breast milk with formula.

Q: Will my breasts grow again after the reduction surgery?

A: Unless the operation is done at an age when the breasts are still developing, they will not grow large again after the operation. However, the breasts will increase in size with weight gain or pregnancy. Conversely, they get smaller with weight loss. As a result, doctors recommend that women have the operation only after finishing any weight-loss diet or regimen.

Q: I am thinking of having breast reduction surgery but I'm not sure how to go about finding a good surgeon. How do I find a qualified plastic surgeon?

A: Professional organizations, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, can provide a list of certified plastic surgeons practicing in your area, but word of mouth is sometimes best. Ask women who have had breast reduction surgery how they found their surgeon and whether they were happy with the results. Primary care physicians can also make recommendations. Check a surgeon's experience and credentials. Most public libraries carry the Directory of Medical Specialists, a reference that can be used to check the credentials of any referred physician. It is also acceptable to ask surgeons directly about their qualifications, the number and complication rates of breast reduction surgeries they have performed, and the cost of the surgery. These questions should be addressed at the first consultation.

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.