July 30, 2022

Breast Reduction: Cosmetic or Medically Necessary?

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What is mammaplasty?

When most people think about plastic surgery, they think of cosmetic procedures. Not all plastic surgery is done for aesthetic reasons. Breast reduction, or reduction mammaplasty, is a surgery performed to remove excess fat, glandular tissue, and skin from the breast (American Society of Plastic Surgeons). While some people get breast reductions for cosmetic reasons to create more proportionate and aesthetically pleasing breasts, breast reductions are often medically necessary. People with large breasts, also known as macromastia, often experience chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain that requires regular use of pain medication. They may also experience chronic rashes, nerve pain, restricted activity, and poor self-image (Mayo Clinic).  


Plastic surgery comes with many risks, just like any procedure. A breast reduction surgery has a number of risks, including breast asymmetry, breast shape irregularities, changes in breast or nipple sensation, potential inability to breastfeed, and potential total loss of the nipple and areola. Breast reduction surgery can also interfere with breast diagnostic tests. The procedure is not permanent; changes in the breast can still occur during and after pregnancy. If you want to learn more about breast reduction surgery risks, visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Cost and Recovery

Breast reduction surgery is often medically necessary and may qualify for insurance coverage. Many insurances will not cover the surgery immediately and require a letter from the plastic surgeon detailing the symptoms and physical findings. If insurance does not cover the procedure, it costs on average $5,913. This cost does not consider the cost of anesthesia, the operating room facilities, or other expenses (ASOP).

Like any surgery, the recovery from a breast reduction often takes months. The surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes under three hours, which means you can return home the same day as the surgery. After surgery, small tubes may be placed under the arms to drain excess fluid. A nurse may apply a elastic bandage to the chest to manage swelling immediately after surgery (ASOP). People commonly experience bruising, swelling, and tenderness for the first few weeks after surgery. Activities will usually be limited for the first one to two months to help with healing and prevent injury (Mayo Clinic). 

Breast reduction surgeries have documented success in improving the quality of life of people suffering from chronic pain and discomfort from their large breasts. In addition to improving physical health, breast reductions have also helped improve self-esteem.

It’s Fetch is a community that provides a safe space for members to discuss health and wellness topics. We provide access to archived health related content, note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content shared, regardless of date should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

-Written by Sabrina Park MPH

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