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Is Breast Reduction Right for You?

Large breasts affect nearly 1 million American women, but there is help available.

Breast Size and Your Symptoms continued...

Additionally, doctors say many women with large breasts also experience shortness of breath, as well as headaches and shoulder pain, all stemming from the excess weight on their chest.

"Some gals will also have numbness in their arms, and paresthesias (nerve tingling) from the weight on the shoulders pulling on nerves behind the collar bone," says Mark Jewell, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

By the end of the day, says Jewell, the pressure on the shoulders from the bra straps alone can be a significant source of pain.

Breast Reduction Surgery: A Remedy That Works

While physical therapy, ergonomic changes, and even pain medication are often a woman's first line of defense, doctors agree that the only sure way to alleviate symptoms is with breast reduction surgery.

"Large breasts pose a clear and recognizable health problem and nothing works better than surgery: not losing weight, not physical therapy, not pain medication," says Jewell.

And women seem to agree. In studies published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery a group of Swedish doctors wrote that women who had the surgery reported significant improvement in all areas of pain and discomfort.

According to the ASAPS, in 2004 more than 144,000 breast reduction surgeries were performed in the U.S. alone -- an increase of more than 200% since 1997.

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