When people think of cosmetic surgery on the breasts, they usually think of implants and women wishing to increase their breast size. However, there are many women who find themselves faced with the opposite problem, whose breasts are deemed to be too large and who want to reduce the size. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), there were 4,823 breast reductions carried out on women in 2014, a 3% rise from the previous year.

Why Have a Breast Reduction?

There are several reasons why someone may want breast reduction surgery, also known as reduction mammoplasty. Women with large breasts may struggle with the weight of them, which can lead to problems such as backache, neck pain and deep grooves in the shoulders caused by strained bra straps. While some companies do make bras with extra support specifically for larger-chested women, these are often still not supportive enough and the discomfort and pain can continue.

On top of the health problems associated with larger breasts, many women also suffer from self-confidence issues. Unwanted sexual attention is often reported as a main grievance from women seeking breast reduction surgery, while others also experience low self-esteem due to feeling out of proportion, or not being able to find clothes that fit properly. Others find that large breasts sag more as they get older, and so may want a breast reduction as it will also lift the breasts.

How Do Breast Reductions Work?

During reduction mammoplasty, excess tissue, fat and skin is removed from the breasts via an incision around nipple. The breasts are then re-shaped, and the nipple is repositioned. This removal results in lighter, smaller breasts that will also sit higher on the body.

The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic and can take anywhere between 2 to 5 hours to complete. Depending on individual circumstances, you may be able to go home the same day as your reduction, or you may be required to stay overnight at the clinic.

How Much Do Breast Reductions Cost?

As with breast implants, the price of private breast reduction in the UK varies depending on location, clinic and individual requirements. The cost of breast reduction can be anything between £3,000 and £6,500, and so it is worth doing a lot of research prior to booking your surgery with a clinic. Your doctor should be able to discuss the full price with you at your initial consultation, where you will find out what exactly is included in the cost – for example, any aftercare and follow-up appointments. As with breast augmentation, the cost of breast reduction surgery can be eased via a number of finance options.

Are Breast Reductions Available on the NHS?

As seen, private cosmetic surgery can prove expensive, which is why many people seek out breast reduction surgery on the NHS. If the main desire behind the surgery is to improve appearance, then it is unlikely you will be eligible for the procedure. However, if it can be proven that you suffer from physical discomfort due to your disproportionately large breasts, then you may be considered. The NHS website lists the following symptoms as potential criteria for NHS-funded breast reductions:

  • backache
  • neck pain
  • skin irritation
  • poor posture
  • excessive sweating, rashes and skin infections under the breasts
  • grooves on the shoulders from bra straps
  • an inability to exercise or take part in sports

The NHS site does also acknowledge the psychological distress caused by large breasts as a possible reason for funding, but notes that the overall decision falls under your local clinical commissioning group (CCG). Each CCG has their own policies and budgets, meaning that patients could be accepted for a NHS-funded breast reductions in one area of the country but not another, even if they have the same symptoms and complaints. Some CCGs may also have their own conditions, such as patients having to be a certain weight before being eligible for the surgery, or breasts having to be over a certain size.

If you think you may be eligible for breast reduction surgery on the NHS, then visit your GP.

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