Benefits and Risks of Breast Reduction

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Young female touching chest in front of mirror, unsatisfied with her breast size

Like any surgery, breast reduction comes with both risks and benefits. For many women (and sometimes men), the benefits of breast reduction outweigh the risks, depending on their goal for the procedure. While many women who choose to have breast reduction surgery are pleased with the outcome, there are potential complications associated with the outpatient operation. Weighing breast reduction pros and cons and understanding the risks and benefits of the procedure can help you make the decision that’s right for you.

Benefits of Breast Reduction

Very large breasts can be a burden for some women, affecting their quality of life in many ways. Depending on what you hope to achieve with breast reduction surgery, the procedure offers many benefits. These range anywhere from heath issues to cosmetic self-image. Some of the benefits of breast reduction include:

  • Alleviate chronic pain: Women who have very large breasts may experience chronic back, neck and shoulder pain due to the weight of their breasts. Bra straps may create painful grooves in your shoulders because of heavy breasts. Some women may also experience a rash or irritation under their breasts due to constant rubbing of the skin.
  • Improve posture: Heavy breasts can affect posture and lead to slouching.
  • Improve breathing: Some women with very large breasts may have difficulty breathing.
  • Create positive self-image: Some women may be unhappy or self-conscious about the size and appearance of their breasts. Large, heavy breasts may droop, and the nipples may point downward. Smaller, firmer breasts can build confidence for women who want breasts in better proportion to their body frame. Clothes may also fit and feel better.
  • Increase activity level: Exercise, sports and other physical activity can be very difficult with the weight of heavy breasts, even while wearing a sports bra. Lighter breasts can free you to participate in more physical activities.

Risks of Breast Reduction

As with any surgical procedure, there are general surgery risks associated with breast reduction, including:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Damage to nerves, tissues, or blood vessels

Other potential unfavorable results or complications with breast reduction surgery include:

  • Scarring: Large scars are unavoidable with breast reduction, unless you have liposuction only for small or medium breast size modifications. Over time, scars usually fade and most of the time scarring is limited to areas that are covered by a bra and bathing suit.
  • Undesired appearance: Your surgeon will make your breasts look as natural and symmetrical as possible, but they may not be perfect. If your nipple and areola needed to be repositioned, they may be slightly uneven. You may also notice discoloration of the areola or excessive firmness of your breasts.
  • Loss of sensation: Your breasts and nipples may lose some feeling after surgery. Sometimes it is only temporary, but it can be permanent.
  • Inability to breastfeed: If you’re still planning to have children, keep in mind there is a risk you may not be able to breastfeed after a breast reduction. However, some women are still able to breastfeed after a reduction.
  • Additional surgery: If you are unhappy with the new appearance of your breasts, you may need another surgery to correct the problem. Some people don’t heal well, and a skin graft may be necessary.

It’s important to discuss these potential risks of breast reduction surgery to see whether you’re comfortable moving forward with the procedure.

Breast Reduction Pros and Cons

While your doctor can offer advice and recommendations, only you can decide whether you are comfortable with breast reduction risks considering its benefits. Many women are very satisfied with the results of breast reduction surgery, for both cosmetic and health reasons. Discuss your options, especially the risks and benefits of breast reduction, with your doctor to see whether the procedure is right for you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Apr 15
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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