There is more to breast surgery than breast augmentation. Philadelphia-area plastic surgeon Dr. Laura Gowen notes that annual statistics from medical associations routinely find augmentation with implants at the top of their lists of most popular cosmetic surgical procedures performed each year in the United States, but beyond implants lie other surgeries with their own unique benefits.
Lifts and reductions are the other two main breast surgeries women choose to get a chest that better reflects how they want to look, or helps them to live a life in which clothes fit better.
Dr. Gowen assembled this list to explain some of the basic differences between the three options:
Patients are likely most familiar with this surgery, since it tends to capture headlines exploring which celebrities have or have not had this surgery done. Breast augmentation involves the insertion of an implant or implants to add volume to one or both breasts. This makes them larger and can change their shape, bringing symmetry to the chest, changing the silhouette, and more.
Multiple companies make breast implants, which come in a variety of options that include size, shell, filler, texture, and shape—all combining in unique ways for each woman choosing the procedure. Implants are inserted via an incision, and may be pre-filled or filled after settling in place, depending on the implant type.
Note that augmentation may also be a part of reconstruction efforts for women who have lost one or both breasts to surgery or trauma, such as a mastectomy due to breast cancer. Breast augmentation may also be part of revision surgery for women who are not happy with the results of a prior augmentation surgery, or whose implants have shifted or ruptured, leading to visible changes in the breasts themselves.
Unlike breast augmentation, a lift is focused not on changing the size of the breasts, but on altering their position on the chest. Time, shifting hormones, and other changes can cause breasts that sit high on the chest and point outward and slightly upward to instead point downward and droop due to stretching skin.
Women who choose this surgery are often mothers whose babies nursed, which can take a toll on the breasts as milk production and frequent breastfeeding sessions cause repeated fluctuations in size. The skin may not be able to handle the changes by bouncing back after a baby gets older and the milk ducts are no longer producing. In these cases, the breasts get smaller, which leads to a deflated look.
A lift is designed to address the stretched-out skin by removing some of it, causing the breasts to once again appear perky and prominent. The surgery can also involve repositioning the nipples so they do not aim at the floor.
The opposite of augmentation, a breast reduction involves removing tissue from the breasts to make them smaller. This is commonly chosen by women whose breasts are so large as to cause daily discomfort, whether from the constant forward and downward pull caused by their significant weight, by clothes not fitting properly (and, in the case of certain bras, creating irritating or painful conditions where straps create lines in the skin of the shoulders), or both.
Some women who want a reduction simply desire a more proportional silhouette, with features that complement and harmonize with each other so that no particular element—such as large breasts—particularly stands out.
The point of breast augmentation and other surgeries is to give women the power to choose the look they want for themselves. That is the reason for the range of procedures available, as well as the variations in each surgery itself.
For women who want to learn more about breast reduction, breast lifts, or breast augmentation, the Philadelphia area’s Dr. Laura Gowen and her team can provide answers to questions. Contact the Cirillo Institute, serving Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, and more, by calling 610.525.0500 or sending a message online.