When size is a bother

Unhappy about your breast size? Don't worry, cosmetic surgery offers effective solutions

illustration of woman examining her breastsMost women may deny it, but the shape and size of their breasts does affect their body image and confidence levels. And it's not just small breasts that are a common source of discontent.

Excessively large breasts too cause feelings of dissatisfaction and lead to a negative body image. It also makes them self-conscious. In fact, heavy-set women also suffer from severe physical discomforts owing to their size—chronic backache and postural changes are some common distresses they face.

Breasts represent womanhood, and are a source of pride for a woman. So, when a woman loses even one of them to breast cancer, not only does it lead to emotional turmoil, but also severely impacts her mental health. However, no woman need languish in despair. Cosmetic surgery has solutions to offer.

For women with a small size

Women with small breasts are recommended breast enlargement or 'breast augmentation' in order to increase the size. This surgery involves making an incision either near the armpit or below the breast line.

Size and volume of the breasts are increased by using breast implants made of silicone, an inert material, which does not react with our body tissues. It is therefore absolutely safe. Since their invention, silicone implants have had a good safety record. The implants are either saline implants or gel implants.

Saline implants have an outer shell made of silicone and are filled with sterile saline water on the inside to augment the breast. In gel implants, both the outer shell and inner shell have silicone gel. These make the breast look life-like and natural.

Breast augmentation requires you to stay in the hospital. Typically, recovery takes seven days.Another way to augment the breast is to use fat from your own body. This is known as autologous fat transfer. More recently, synthetic fillers [like macrolane] are also available for breast enhancement and this procedure does not require hospitalisation.

For women with a large size

Significantly large breasted women are suggested breast reduction surgery to downsize the breast and reshape it. It is a highly specialised surgery and the breast can be reduced to several sizes, so as to achieve a good, aesthetic breast that is proportionate to the women's body.

This procedure involves a key-hole scar around the nipple and areola. You need to spend 2 – 3 days on an average in the hospital.

For women who need firming up

Often, pregnancy or significant weight loss leads to loose and sagging breasts, known as mastopexy. The sagging breast is suspended back so that it rests against the chest wall and appears more firm. Breast implants may also be done along with this procedure if volume also needs to be restored.

For those missing a breast

Women who have lost breast tissue due to cancer can go for breast reconstruction. In this, the breast is newly made from the available tissue at the same site or from another site on the woman's body.

Generally, the back muscles are used along with the overlying skin to form the breast mould as well as the cover. If this is not possible or inadequate to match the size of the other unoperated breast, then a silicon breast implant is used to increase the volume. Or, tissue from other sites like the thigh, buttock or the abdomen can be used.

This is a highly-specialised procedure and requires special skills in surgery. Breast reconstruction after post-cancer mastectomy can improve the body image and quality of life for the woman.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
  • What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure? How are they handled?
  • How many such surgeries have you performed and can you share some testimonials?
  • How can I expect my lifted breasts to look over time?
  • What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my lifted breasts?

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