Breast surgery is a procedure that modifies a woman or man’s breasts. Such surgeries are done for a variety of reasons. Some are done for cosmetic reasons, such as to reconstruct the breast to look more youthful, or increase its size. Others are medically necessary such as a breast reduction for back pain or surgery to remove cancer.
Breast surgery is a procedure performed on a female or male’s breast(s). There are different types of breast surgeries. Some are performed for medical reasons such as cancer, others for cosmetic reasons (plastic surgery). Examples include:
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There are medical reasons for needing breast surgery, such as breast cancer, non-cancerous breast lumps and breast reduction surgery to help get rid of back pain. There are also cosmetic reasons, such as the personal desire to have a different size, appearance, or shape of the breast(s).
Breast surgeries are common.
The answer depends on what type of procedure you’re having:
Ask your healthcare provider about the details of your specific type of surgery.
Yes. Some men have a condition called gynecomastia where their breasts are large, and they choose to have for this condition.
Men can also develop breast cancer, and the cancer is removed with surgery.
You’ll have a consultation with your surgeon before any medical or cosmetic procedure. He or she will first need to learn about your situation and determine if you’re a good candidate for the surgery. You’ll likely have the following discussions no matter what type of breast surgery you’re having:
You might be ready for optional cosmetic breast surgery if you meet the following criteria, including:
At this point in the process, your healthcare provider may ask you to do some tasks to prepare for your surgery, including:
The consultation is also the time for you to ask your surgeon questions. For example:
Before a breast augmentation, breast reduction, or breast reconstruction, your healthcare provider will:
Before breast surgery for cancer, your healthcare provider will:
The length of the procedure depends on the type of breast surgery. Lumpectomy, for example, takes about one to two hours. Breast reduction surgeries, for example, take about three to five hours.
Breast surgeries are very complicated, but the steps are simplified here with two examples: breast augmentation surgery and breast reduction surgery.
There are five steps in a breast augmentation surgery:
There are five steps in a breast reduction surgery:
If there has been some trauma to the breasts or specifically the nipple, or if you want to change its appearance, breast reconstruction surgery might be the best option. Unfortunately, this won’t cure an inability to breastfeed or feel sensation on the nipple. The reconstruction is done using implants or using your tissues such as part of your abdominal wall.
Yes. You will be under anesthesia. Discuss your anesthesia options with your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider will monitor you closely after surgery. You’ll have gauze dressings and either a support bra or elastic bandage. These will minimize swelling and support your healing breasts. You’ll get instructions and schedule a follow-up appointment. You may get a prescription for pain medication.
All surgeries have risks, and breast surgery is no different. Possible risks include, but are not limited to:
A warning if you have breast augmentation surgery: breast implants can prevent the detection of cancer. Breast cancer is a serious condition. Also, note that breast implants may not last your entire lifetime. You may have to have surgery in the future. Weight loss, pregnancy and menopause can also change the shape of your breasts.
There can be scar tissue after breast reduction surgery that causes pain. Typically, if you have breast augmentation, your pain shouldn’t last more than one to five days, although there may be some soreness and swelling for as long as a few weeks.
After breast cancer surgery the area may be bruised. There may be numbness or tingling all over, including your upper arm and armpit. Take pain relievers, warm showers (after a week) and do some easy exercises. When you’re allowed to, put vitamin E lotion or pure lanolin on the incisions to help with scarring.
In the future, you might need to have more breast surgeries. The reason could be there’s more cancer, or because implants need to be replaced. Blood tests, physical exams and mammograms are vital.
Talk with your healthcare provider about any personal risks.
The recovery time is generally between one week and six weeks or longer and depends on the type of breast surgery you are having. After a lumpectomy, you may return to work after around two weeks. After a mastectomy, this will be longer, between four to six weeks. After breast reduction or augmentation surgery, you can return to work/school after about a week. You may be sore for weeks after breast surgery. It is important to discuss recovery time with your healthcare provider as this will depend on your case.
You’ll have several tasks at home no matter what type of breast surgery you have. Right after your surgery, you’ll need to care for your breasts by changing the bandages, keeping the areas dry, and other tasks:
Don’t go back to your normal activity level or driving until you have permission from your surgeon. Avoid lifting heavy objects. Depending on what your surgeon says, you may not be able to return to your normal exercise routine for up to a month.
Contact your surgeon if you experience:
Surgery for breast cancer is typically covered by health insurance. Optional surgeries to change the appearance of your breasts are typically not covered by insurance. Speak with your health insurance company regarding your options before you schedule surgery.
The cost of breast surgery depends on the procedure, the surgeon’s experience and the geographic location of the office. There are fees for the anesthesia, the facility, tests, clothes, prescriptions and the surgeon’s fees. Ask about payment plans.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/26/2021.
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