Things to consider
Breast reduction should only be considered after taking medical advice from a qualified cosmetic, plastic or breast surgeon.
Many patients gain a better quality of life after a breast reduction as symptoms such as back pain are often dramatically reduced. However, any kind of cosmetic surgery should not be undertaken lightly.
You may feel it will improve your appearance and quality of life, but it can be expensive and time consuming and, as with any form of surgery, there are a number of risks.
The decision to have a breast reduction should only be taken after a lot of careful thought and questioning.
Do your research
If you feel you will benefit from a breast reduction, it is important that you are as well informed as possible.
Talk to your GP to get information and general advice on the procedure, and look into the surgeons, hospitals and clinics that perform breast reductions.
Your GP may refer you to an appropriate surgeon, who can discuss your problems, examine you and advise you about the options available, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Don't be nervous about asking for detailed information from your GP or a surgeon about the procedure.
Choosing a surgeon
Surgeons who are trained in general surgery should have FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) after their name. Surgeons trained in plastic surgery in the UK will usually have FRCS (Plast) after their name.
Doctors who are also considered to be suitably trained are listed on the specialist register kept by the General Medical Council (GMC).
You can find out if a doctor is on the specialist register by using the GMC website to check whether a doctor or surgeon is registered. The website gives details of the surgeon's primary speciality, but it doesn't provide information about any other specialist qualifications that they may hold.
Before choosing a surgeon, find out about their experience of doing breast reductions and make sure you meet them before committing to surgery.
When you find a surgeon, be honest and clear about your expectations and find out if a breast reduction can really give you the results you want.
A surgeon should provide full details of the procedure before you decide to go ahead with it. Expect the consultation to take half an hour or longer.
Read more information about choosing a surgeon and qualifications to look for in a cosmetic surgeon.
It is important to discuss your expectations with your surgeon. Sometimes a very radical reduction will alter the shape and look of the breasts. There will be scarring and sometimes also lost or altered nipple sensation.
For women with very large breasts, the benefits of a reduction may outweigh any potential imperfections. For women with only moderately large breasts, the benefits may not be worth the potential risks and side effects.
Your breasts can still change in size and shape after surgery. They should not regrow, unless the operation is done at an age when your breasts are still growing, but they can increase in size if you put on weight or become pregnant. They can also decrease in size if you lose weight. Normal breasts also have a tendency to droop over time.
As your breasts can get bigger during pregnancy and there is a significant chance that you won't be able to breastfeed after a breast reduction, you may be advised to postpone having surgery until you are sure you don't want to have any more children.
Arranging for surgery outside the NHS
When having private treatment, you will be asked to sign an agreement form before having your breast reduction operation. Make sure you understand and are happy with the agreement before you sign.
The agreement should include details of cost. Make sure you understand what this covers, especially in terms of aftercare and any revision surgery (surgery to treat any complications or problems) that may be needed. There may also be financial penalties if you decide to cancel the agreement.
The provider of your procedure, a private clinic or hospital, will keep a record of your treatment that may contain before and after photographs of you. Think about whether you would mind the provider showing these to other potential patients. The provider should ask for your consent before showing any part of your records to other patients.
Cosmetic surgery may sometimes be cheaper abroad than it is in the UK. However, this needs to be weighed up against the cost of travel and accommodation and any follow-up care or revision surgery that may be needed.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is responsible for regulating and checking private cosmetic surgery in England, does not cover procedures abroad and will not be able to help if you experience any problems.
If you are not confident that the procedure you are having is safe, it could end up being more costly in terms of risk, pain, revision surgery and aftercare.
Read more about cosmetic surgery abroad.
The cosmetic surgery checklist
1. Think about your expectations.
2. Check out potential surgeons. Make sure you meet them before committing to surgery.
3. Have a thorough consultation to plan your treatment. Make sure you know the risks involved and the likely results.
4. Cool off before you commit. Take time to think about whether the procedure is right for you and if you are happy with the surgeon.
5. Care about your aftercare. Make sure you know how you will be looked after, especially if there are any complications after surgery.
Further details on the cosmetic surgery checklist can be found on the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons website.
Page last reviewed: 07/01/2014
Next review due: 07/01/2016