[By Tania Hui]
Some may think of them as an asset but as everything else in life, there’s always a flip side.
Extremely large breasts may be the envy of some, but to those blessed or cursed with plus-sized boobies, there’s a host of accompanying problems, not just aesthetically. For these well-endowed ladies, carrying around that extra weight from their busts is no laughing matter, causing everything from prejudice and pain to major wardrobe dilemmas. In a recent survey in UK participated by 200 women who consider themselves as having large breasts, up to 80% are suffering from neck and back pain, 77% experience shoulder pain with another 45% reporting significant limitations to physical activities. Chaffing, skin rash or darkening beneath breast creases affect 58% while 52% are unhappy with their appearance and wish for appropriately sized mammaries.
In a society familiar and obsessed with “up-sizing”, RSB talk to plastic surgeon, Dr. Tan Ying Chien from The Sloane Clinic about this special group of women with alternative needs— seeking breast reduction surgery as a way to help regain their ability to lead an active lifestyle, alleviate certain medical ailments and restore their overall confidence.
RSB: Hello Dr. YC, thanks for giving us the chance to explore further on this lesser known area of Reconstructive Breasts Surgery! So what are the things to consider when you assess a patient’s suitability for the procedure?
Dr.YC: Hi Tania, it’s good to see you again! Thanks for having me as coincidentally, this is an area of special interest for me and it is great to have the chance to share some facts and correct some common myths to set the record straight. (Smiles reassuringly)
Breast reduction surgery is one corrective surgery that potentially offers both cosmetic and health benefits. Woman with large breasts often suffer from certain medical ailments such as back pain and chronic dermatitis. The weight of excess breast tissue can also potentially restrict a woman’s lifestyle as they often feel incapacitated to participate in sports and physical activities. Some of them may be hounded by sexist jokes or bad humour. A breast reduction surgery may in turn allow these sufferers to enjoy more physical and mental freedom previously unknown to them.
One of the first things I do is to make sure the patient is within 10% of her ideal weight. In addition to the fact that any excess weight is most likely contributing to her overly large breasts, the risk of surgical complications increases with obesity. Pubertal spurts, pregnancy, breastfeeding and weight gain are other issues that need to be addressed as they will alter the size of the breasts, at times significantly, pre- or post-surgery.
RSB: What would you recommend if the size of the breasts get in the way of exercising?
Dr. YC: A nutritionally balanced diet and a custom exercise regime goes hand in hand for any successful weight management program. Swimming is a very good option for these ladies as the weightlessness of water will take some of the pressure off. In many cases, they can possibly get round this by wearing better fitting support garments. Wearing a well fitted bra is paramount as it helps pull in the weight of the breasts closer to the body, reducing the strain on the back. Having strong core muscles also offers good support to the spine.
RSB: So what does the surgery involve?
Dr. YC: In a nutshell, breast reduction surgery removes excess fat, breast tissue and skin. The breast size will then be rebuilt and contours of the breasts reshaped to form smaller and firmer breasts. The areola may be reduced and repositioned simultaneously resulting in breasts that are lifted and more proportional with the rest of the body. There are various incision options available to meet different degree of enlargement and drooping of the breasts in order to achieve optimal surgical outcomes.
RSB: What about the nipples?
Dr.YC: Enlarged nipples can be corrected with Nipple Surgery at the same time. Nipples that are long and droopy can be shortened. Sometimes, the skin along the neck of the nipple is also removed. If the nipple is too wide or thick, a pie-shaped wedge is removed from the under-surface of the nipple which will allow it to be “taken in” to achieve better looking proportions.
RSB: Are there any risks involved?
Dr.YC: Risks are inherent to any surgery and therefore as a rule of thumb, any surgery should only be performed when the benefits outweigh the risks. With these procedures, the common risks are swelling, infection, or a change in sensation to the nipple and breast. However, most of these are always temporary. Common side effects include minimal post-operative pain and swelling. These treatments also do not normally affect the ability to breastfeed.
RSB: Thanks for the insightful interview, Dr. YC! Any last words for our readers?
Dr.YC: It’s a good thing that modern surgical techniques mean that women need not suffer in silence anymore if they are affected by the woes of having oversized breasts. Talk to a surgeon today to find out more about what the surgery entails and he will definitely assist you in achieving both psychological and physical well-being.
Dr Tan Ying Chien is the Consultant Plastic Surgeon at The Sloane Clinic Plastic Surgery Centre and remains a Visiting Consultant to the Plastic Surgery Departments at both KK and SGH, Singapore.