- Women's Health
Breast Reduction Surgery
A Necessary Medical Procedure?
Women who want relief of back, shoulder, and neck pain caused by large breasts are opting for Breast Reduction Surgery. Breast Reduction Surgery or Reduction Mammoplasty is becoming a common medical procedure. More than 70,000 women underwent breast reduction surgery in 1999.
When I was 16, I selected to have Breast Reduction Surgery. While I was still considered an adolescent and hadn't finished growing, I was still determined to take the risk and have surgery. Here's my story.
Life Before Surgery
Growing up, I remember one or two moments realizing I was "different" from the other girls in my class. Although I was considered over-weight, I was also far more "developed" for my age. It didn't get to me most days; I played sports at recess and was a pretty typical kid.
As I got older and moved into upper elementary classes, it was more and more noticeable. I was probably around a C-cup. That can be pretty embarrassing when you're in 5th grade. But I still had a decent self-image and although jokes were sometimes made at my expense, I let them roll off.
But I started having health problems. I developed what is known as Costochondritis, a type of inflammation in the coastal spaces of your rib cage. My back would hurt from carrying the excess weight on my chest. I began to grow self-conscious of my breasts.
Exercise didn't help to reduce them. At 14 I was diagnosed with clinical depression. A while after that, my pediatrician suggested we look into breast reduction surgery.
My family and doctors were surprised I knew what the surgery was. For years I had harbored hope of being able to have surgery to reduce my breasts. My self-image was shot and I hated that fact that I was a 44DD in size.
It was time for a change.
Finding the right doctor for me
The first doctor I scheduled an appointment with turned out to be bad news. She acted as though I was to have surgery immediately. She pressured my mom and I to sign papers (my mom would have to give consent because I was underage at the time) and although she was very nice, something seemed "wrong" about our consultation.
A few days later, my mom received a phone call from our insurance, asking why some doctor was trying to submit for elective surgery for a 21 year old. The doctor tried to falsify paperwork on me! My mother explained the situation to our insurance and they took action against the doctor. We dodged a bullet!
A short time later we ran into some family friends. The lady had undergone breast reduction surgery not too long before with wonderful results. She gave us the name of her surgeon, Dr Richard Busby. After talking about it, we made an appointment to see him.
Dr Busby's office was very friendly and welcoming. He took time to explain the surgery to both me and my mother, listing out the benefits and the complications. He asked me how I felt about it; I told him point-blank I wanted surgery as soon as possible. He remarked that he could tell I was mentally prepared for what surgery would entail. Dr Busby had me watch a short video on the procedure, that explained details of the operation. He also explained that because I was so young, my likelihood of breast feeding any children I might have would probably be over, due to how much tissue he would have to remove. I said I understood, as this was about me and my health.
Dr Busby submitted the application for the elective surgery to my insurance, with my correct information, and was granted approval. I returned to see him once more, for pre-surgery pictures and one last consult before surgery.
Before You Consider Surgery
- Consult your Primary Care doctor about exercise to reduce weight or if you might be a candidate for Breast Reduction Surgery.
- Weigh the pros and cons of Breast Reduction Surgery. Is it right for you? Are you able to live with scars?
- If you've decided on Breast Reduction Surgery, try to select two doctors and make appointments for consultations. Opinions may differ and it is important that you trust the doctor who will eventually operate on you, as your life is in their hands!
- If something feels "off" or your gut instinct says "no", then find another doctor. If they aren't willing to listen or give you genuine answers to your questions, nor do they make you feel comfortable, do not have them as your surgeon!
- Commit to the operation. Breast Reduction Surgery is a life-changing experience for a woman; it will affect you for the rest of your life. Read up on it, make plans for post-op recovery, involve your family!
Have you considered having Breast Reduction Surgery?
The Day of Surgery
My parents and I arrived in the early morning at the hospital to check in and get prepared for surgery. I'm not a morning person, so being up way early was rough. They gave me an antacid for my stomach and gave me a gown to put on. A nurse put an IV line in the back of my hand for the anesthesia.
The waiting was the hard part. Eventually, Dr Busby came in, dressed in his scrubs, and drew lines with a Sharpie on my chest, which would become the incision lines. After that, things moved quickly. After saying goodbye to my parents, I was wheeled in on a gurney into the operating room. Everyone on the surgical team was cheerful and friendly. They explained everything they were doing in preparation for surgery.
The anesthesiologist explained that he was going to start the anesthesia soon, and asked me some questions. Somehow we got on the topic of Disneyland. Then he asked me to start counting backwards from 10. I made it to 8 and everything went blank.
During the surgery, Dr Busby made incisons following the lines he had drawn before the surgery had started. The incisions encircled the areola (the darkened area around the nipple) and extended downward and around the underside of the breast. It looks sort of like a "key-hole".
The nipple is left attached to a strip of skin, so it can continue to receive a fresh blood supply. After the incisions are made, the doctor begins to remove breast tissue, fatty tissue, milk ducts, and excess skin. He may also choose to do liposuction to remove extra fat from the armpit area. When he is satisfied with the results, he then positions the nipple higher on the breast.
After the nipple is moved, excess skin around and under the nipple are excised (removed) and he begins to suture the area internally and externally. This can require hundreds, if not thousands of sutures. Most are what are called "dissolving", meaning they will dissolve and disappear as the wound heals.
The doctor also inserts drains, a tube that helps carry away blood and other fluids away from the incision site. Mine had little bulbs at the end to collect the fluids.
The procedure is then repeated for the other breast. The entire surgery can take anywhere from 2-4 hours.
After surgery is completed, you are wrapped in surgical gauze and padding, then wrapped with a pressure bandage. Amazingly, I woke up just as they were finishing wrapping me up.
I was told later that I was one of the youngest patients to have this surgery, and that Dr Busby had removed roughly a pound of flesh from each breast.
How Breast Reduction Works
After being wheeled into the recovery room, I was in and out of consciousness. I was wrapped up tight around my chest, much like a mummy, and found it hard to get comfortable. Eventually it was decided that the time had come to move me upstairs to the room I would be spending the night in.
Most people will spend the night in the hospital post-surgery. Others might have to stay longer if there is complications.
I remember being very chatty in spite of my recent surgery as the orderly took me upstairs. But that's when the not-so-fun stuff started. The nurses brought me some juice to drink but now that I was moved to a sitting position, my head realized that my center of balance was now much different.
For several hours I threw up. I couldn't keep things down. Walking the few steps from the bed to the bathroom was terrible. It was like trying to walk on roller skates. I was monitored but eventually the vomiting stopped and I kept some juice down. My mom spent the night with me in the hospital. Every hour a nurse would come in and check my vital signs. Sleeping was pretty impossible. I was uncomfortable and one of my drains was working its way out.
In the morning, it was a waiting game. Dr Busby was going to come and check on me, as well as change the dressings. I was practically bouncing off the walls. Although I was heavily bandaged, this was the first time in my life I felt free. I could cross my arms over my chest, something I had never been able to do before. I was recovering from major surgery far faster then expected.
After what seemed like an eternity, Dr Busby arrived. He removed the drains and the dressings. I had my first look at his work. Both breasts were hard, swollen and bruised. They felt and looked like rocks attached to my chest. Dr Busby told me how much tissue he had removed; I went from a 44DD to a 42B/C. He redressed my incisions and bandaged me up again, then went to sign the discharge papers.
Shortly after, I was wheeled out to the entrance of the hospital and sent home. I was so excited I felt like running around the yard as soon as we got home!
A few weeks after surgery I felt a sharp pain along the incision site of my left breast. A check up with Dr Busby revealed one of the dissolving stitches didn't dissolve. It hurt when he snipped it free and removed it but that was the only complication I had. Dr Busby remarked on my progress, which was fantastic for a 16 year old after major surgery, and one last appointment was scheduled for after photos.
A Decade Later
Life Post Surgery
It has been almost 20 years since I had Breast Reduction Surgery. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for having had surgery. My body image has gotten better, and I feel more self-confident, instead of self-conscious about my breasts.
Most people have no idea I've had surgery. It is only when I tell them that they are amazed. I've recounted my story to many people, young and old. If telling my story helps one person, then it is worth telling.
My scars have faded dramatically since the operation. You can still see them but they aren't as noticeable as they were during the first couple of years. I suffered no complications. There have been minor changes, mostly due to weight fluctuation, but nothing outrageous.
I still find joy in being able to cross my arms over my chest. Sometimes it's the little things that are most important.
© 2009 missbat