All you need to know about breast reduction surgery

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Many women assume breast reduction is only for cosmetic purposes. But it can actually be a necessity for some. We talk to surgeon Dr Frank Graewe about breast reduction for health reasons.

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Breast hypertrophy is the medical term for larger than normal breasts. While normal is relative, it becomes apparent when there are physical and emotional restrictions that result from extreme breast size.

Dr Frank Graewe, plastic and reconstruction surgeon, answers frequently asked questions about breast reconstruction and reduction:

From what age can you have a breast reduction?

This really depends on the degree of breast hypertrophy, and whether breast development has been completed. If breast development has not been completed, then we always advise to wait. If the surgery is done before the breast development is complete then there could be the risk of not achieving the desired look in the long run as their size could increase after the reduction.

How long does the surgery take?

Surgery usually lasts for two to three hours. Most women require a breast lift at the same time as the reduction. This makes sense when you consider how much weight has been carried and how the skin may have stretched. This doesn’t lead to any more scarring or loss of physical sensations and for a good cosmetic outcome, it’s almost always required.

Are there bad scars?

Generally, an inverted T-scar approach is necessary. This scar runs around the areola and down to the fold and then in the fold where the breast and the chest meet. Small reductions can be done with a shorter scar that is vertical.

How long is thehealing process?

The scaring and healing process differs per person, but if women follow the post-operative instructions carefully and wear a supportive bra for 3 – 6 months, healing is supported and scar formation is improved. You will need to take leave from work for two to three weeks. This recovery period is necessary due to post-operative pain and swelling, and the patient should not lift heavy objects and should limit jerky movements with her arms. The recovery period also depends on the extent of the surgery and how well the patient is healing.

What about breastfeeding?

One of the most important considerations for most women is whether they will be able to breastfeed later. After all, the breasts play an integral role in motherhood, so whether the discomfort is chronic or not, many women avoid reducing their size due to the fear of not being able to feed their babies.

In most cases, this can be avoided. Technically, only a part of the breast tissue is removed surgically, so there is still functional tissue left that can proliferate during pregnancy and produce milk. In a worst-case scenario, where a woman might not be able to breastfeed normally, or only to a certain extent – extra bottle-feeding may be necessary

Do the breasts enlarge again after pregnancy?

Weight gain can lead to a significant increase in breast size, and with the weight gain and biological preparation for breast feeding that pregnancy brings, breasts will become enlarged, but should go back to their reduced size post weight-loss or birth. In some rare cases, the breasts remain enlarged or get much smaller after pregnancy and breast-feeding.

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