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Is Breast Reduction Right for You?

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

How It Works

The operation itself can be performed in a variety of different ways but all techniques have the same goal: Removal of a pound or more of tissue and fat cells from each breast, and then cutting away the resulting excess skin. While in some instances the nipple must also be removed and repositioned, doctors say this procedure has become increasingly rare.

And while the surgery can take up to three hours and always requires general anesthesia, doctors say it is a safe procedure with a fast recovery.

"Since all we are doing is taking out skin and superficial tissue, and not moving any muscles or organs, there is little danger and very little postoperative pain," says Michael Zenn, MD, an associate professor of plastic surgery at Duke University Medical Center.

Indeed, Zenn reports that most women experience only a mild discomfort for a day or two after surgery, and most go back to work within a week. In two weeks he says you can be back to all normal activity, including gym workouts.

"Women are always surprised at how little pain is associated with this surgery. They always expect much more than what it causes," Zenn tells WebMD.

Scarring

While breast reduction surgery is designed to relieve physical complaints, doctors say that aesthetics also play a role.

While good shape and contour are almost always achieved, doctors say the one problem that can't be avoided is scarring.

"There is always some scarring, it is always visible and it is always permanent," says Snodgrass.

That said, it's important to note that the degree to which it occurs is highly personal and different for each woman.

"In general people have different scarring potential. Even within each person the body can scar differently depending on the area, so some women can scar far less than others," says Zenn.

Women with a history of keloids for example (a complication of excessive scar tissue that is most prevalent in blacks and Asians) are frequently dissuaded from having the surgery because scarring might be excessive.

However, Snodgrass says that most women aren't bothered by the potential for scarring.

"The statistics show that well over 90% of women are not only glad they did it, but they would do it again and they would recommend it to someone else," says Snodgrass.

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