The most frequently performed cosmetic surgery procedure in the U.S., breast augmentation can give women with small or unevenly sized breasts a fuller, firmer, better-proportioned look through the placement of implants in the breast. Women may elect to undergo breast augmentation for many different medical and aesthetic motivations, including balancing breast size and compensating for reduced breast mass after pregnancy or surgery. The procedure may be combined with others such as a breast lift for more satisfying results.
Implants are silicone shells filled with saline (salt water) and are placed behind each breast, underneath either breast tissue or the chest wall muscle. The procedure lasts one to two hours and is typically performed with general anesthesia, although local anesthesia combined with a sedative is also possible. After surgery the patient’s bustline may be increased by one or more cup sizes.
Large breasts may cause physical and mental discomfort and can even harm the women who have them -- the size and weight of large breasts can result in self-consciousness, improper posture, pain in the back and neck, indentations from bra straps, skin rashes, breathing problems and skeletal deformities. Breast reduction surgery is usually done to provide physical relief from these symptoms. Performed under general anesthesia, the two- to four-hour procedure removes fat and glandular tissue and trims resultant excess skin to produce smaller, lighter breasts that are in a healthier proportion to the rest of the body. Breast reduction surgery is not recommended for women who intend to breast-feed, since many of the milk ducts leading to the nipples are removed.
A breast lift, or mastopexy, is performed to return youthful shape and lift to breasts that have sagged as a result of weight loss, pregnancy, loss of the skin’s natural elasticity or simply the effects of gravity. The procedure can also reduce areolar size (the dark skin surrounding the nipple), and it can be combined with breast augmentation for added volume and firmness. Breasts of any size can be lifted, but results last longest when they are originally small and sagging. Mastopexy may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgery center or a surgeon's office-based facility. It is usually done under general anesthesia, and lasts from one to three hours.
Modern surgical technology makes it possible to construct a natural-looking breast after mastectomy (breast removal) for cancer or other diseases. The procedure is commonly begun and sometimes completed immediately following mastectomy, so that the patient wakes with a new breast mound. Alternatively, reconstruction may begin years after mastectomy. There are several ways to reconstruct the breast, both with and without implants; your surgeon(s) should work together with you in deciding which is the best for you. Breast reconstruction has not been proven to affect the recurrence of cancer or other diseases, chemotherapy or radiation treatment.