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Finding Your Real Body: Susan & Lara on Breast Reduction

Lara wishes she'd had it done years earlier.

Susan says she's "never looked back."

Studies show that breast reduction has one of highest patient satisfaction rates of all plastic surgery procedures, and these two women are no exception.

Lara had her surgery for medical reasons. She wore a DDD cup even as a teenager, and by the time she was 25 years old, the weight of her breasts was causing back pain. Several doctors suggested the procedure to her then, but Lara put it off until she was 31 and had entered graduate school. By then her back pain had become so severe that "I had to write my papers standing up, and even then I could only work for 45 minutes at a time." Lara says she was astounded by the complete relief from back pain. she felt relief immediately after the operation, but was even more surprised at the psychological lift she experienced. "I felt like I had been in the wrong body for all those years," she says now, "and I had finally found my real one.

Susan, in contrast, chose surgery for cosmetic reasons. She was 23 years old, just out of college, and she couldn't find clothes that fit. Although she was "only" a D cup, her pendulous breasts sagged past her waistline, and clothes that fit over her breasts simply fell off her narrow shoulders. After her surgery sixteen years ago, she wore a B cup; now in her early fifties, she wears a C, but says "it's not my breasts that have grown; it's the rest of me!"

If oversized breasts are affecting your life in a negative way, breast reduction might help. Both Susan and Lara say that talking to former patients helped them in making the decision to have this surgery, and in knowing what to expect afterwards.

Here are some tips based on their experiences:

Make sure you understand the possible side effects of surgery.

Both Lara and Susan were aware that breast reduction surgery can affect a woman's ability to breastfeed. As it turns out, neither woman has had children. Lara says that if she does have a child, bottle-feeding, if necessary, won't be a problem for her.

Some scarring is unavoidable in breast reduction surgery. From experience, Lara knew that she was likely to develop keloids – raised and sometimes painful scars -- but she decided she'd rather have scars than back pain. For Susan, scars meant she wouldn't feel comfortable in a bikini -- but she doesn't consider this a major problem. Both women say their scars were never an issue for the men with whom they were romantically involved.

Loss of Sensitiviy. Some women, especially those whose nipples and areolas must be detached, lose sensitivity in the breasts, but this was not the case for either Lara or Susan.

Lara's ex-husband did not want her to have breast reduction surgery. In fact, she waited until after they divorced to have it done. Although she recommends that you not base your decision on the wishes of others, she points out that you should be aware that people close to you may have strong feelings about your surgery.

Be aware of different breast reduction methods and discuss them with your surgeon. Lara's surgeon used the typical anchor-shaped incision that runs down from the nipple and under each side of the breast. Since Susan was having less tissue removed, her surgeon was able to make smaller pie-shaped incisions on the outer side of each breast. This non-standard technique meant a shorter, less painful recovery period for her. Another technique, the "doughnut" method, may also involve less scarring. Ask your surgeon to explain your options, and recommend the technique(s) most appropriate for your individual situation.

Take plenty of time to recover from your operation. Both women advise taking two or three weeks off from work to "just do nothing." Your breasts will be swollen and bruised, and you may have a temporary drainage tube inserted to remove excess fluid. Although Susan used very little pain medication, Lara, who had more tissue removed, relied heavily on medication in the days following surgery. Even lifting small objects or bending over may be painful, so you'll need someone with you for at least a week to help with daily activities.

Know what to expect afterwards. It's normal to experience varying degrees of discomfort for up to six months after your surgery. Although Susan felt very little discomfort and had to remind herself not to return to her normal activity level too soon, scar tissue made Lara's breasts hard, and they ached for several months following surgery. She reports that within six months, however, the scar tissue softened and her breasts felt more natural.

Don't underestimate the power of a new body image. Both Susan and Lara say that breast reduction surgery can be unsettling; after all, our identities are often closely tied to the way we look. Even if we make positive changes in our appearance, it can take some getting used to. For Lara, who chose surgery for medical reasons, a new body image led to the most surprising -- and exciting -- results of her decision. Now a regular jogger, she says she couldn't run before surgery. because "there wasn't a sports bra available in my size -- and the bouncing hurt my breasts." But even more interesting, she says, is the fact that she's developed a more outgoing personality since her reduction. "I didn't realize that my self-consciousness about my breasts had kept me from taking part in so much of life." Susan, echoing Lara's thoughts, offers her final word of advice to women who really want to have a breast reduction: "Just go for it!" 

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