A breast reduction is a surgical procedure, which involves removing excess glandular tissue, fat and skin, and reshaping the breasts. The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic with the aim to result in smaller breasts.
Can I Get a Breast Reduction on the NHS?
Breast reduction procedures are available on the NHS, although they will not usually be granted for purely cosmetic reasons. This means that, in the vast majority of cases, you will need to have a clear physical or psychological problem, or another health concern related to the size of your breasts, in order to qualify.
Decisions related to NHS breast reductions are made by local clinical commissioning groups. Some of these groups will not provide funding for breast reductions at all, while others have strict eligibility criteria.
In most cases, you will only be considered as a suitable candidate for a breast reduction procedure on the NHS if you have a medical problem caused by the size of your breasts.
Examples of medical problems that may make you eligible to undergo the procedure include:
- Back ache, or shoulder or neck pain caused by large breasts
- Skin irritation or rashes under the breasts
- Related psychological issues, such as depression, low self-esteem or anxiety
- Severe damage to the shoulders caused by bra straps
- Issues associated with poor posture
- An inability to perform certain tasks, such as exercise
Some local clinical commissioning groups also take other factors into account, such as your age, your weight, your smoker status, the size of your breasts, whether you have tried other less invasive solutions to your problems first, and your overall standard of health.
How Do You Apply For a Reduction on the NHS?
To apply for a breast reduction, the first step is to book an appointment with your GP and discuss your situation and the reasons for wanting the procedure. They will have an understanding of local eligibility criteria and will refer you to a surgeon for an assessment of your circumstances if they feel you are suitable.
During this assessment, the surgeon will go through your personal circumstances, carry out a basic health check and explain the risks associated with the procedure. Depending on your reasons for wanting the surgery, you may also be referred to a mental health professional for a separate psychological evaluation.
Following the assessment period, the final decision on whether you are a good candidate for a breast reduction will be made by a panel from your local clinical commissioning group. If you are considered to be a suitable candidate, you will be placed on the waiting list and will eventually undergo the operation.
How Long is the Waiting List?
The overall waiting list for breast reductions on the NHS is usually fairly long, as it is a popular procedure, but precise times vary from one region of the country to the next. This will largely depend on the size of the local population and the availability of local facilities and qualified surgeons.
Due to this regional variance, it is not possible to provide accurate estimates of how long you will be on the waiting list. However, in the less busy areas it will likely take several months and in the most busy areas, or in areas where facilities are limited, it could potentially take several years to reach the top of the list.
Cost of Breast Reductions from a Private Clinic
The cost of breast reduction procedures from a private clinic can vary quite significantly, but prices tend to fall within the £3,500 to £6,000 range. With that being said, it is not uncommon for the final price to exceed this, especially if initial consultations, assessments and after care sessions are not included in the fees.
Other factors that can affect the cost include: the clinic you choose, the level of experience the surgeon has, and the extent of the breast reduction procedure required to resolve your problems, or achieve the desired appearance.
Other Options and Alternatives
Finally, it is worth considering some of the alternatives to breast reduction surgery, as the procedure is not necessarily the ideal solution for everyone who experiences problems. These alternatives include:
- Losing weight, especially if you are classed as obese
- Physiotherapy, which can help to improve posture and ease strains
- The use of a high-quality, professional bra-fitting service
- Psychological therapy, to assist with mental health issues
It is important to note that most local clinical commissioning groups will only agree to put you forward as a candidate for an NHS-funded breast reduction operation if you have tried some of these alternatives first.