After a 4 percent decrease the previous year, the number of breast reduction surgeries performed in the United States have sharply risen by 11 percent in 2017, reports the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) in their annual review.
While women make up the majority of breast reduction patients due to both functional and aesthetic concerns from overly large breasts, men are also increasingly opting to receive gynecomastia (male breast) removal for a more toned appearance.
Jeffrey E. Janis, MD, president of ASPS, attributes the rising interest in this procedure to its dual benefits:
“Breast reductions are consistently reported as one of the highest patient satisfaction procedures because it positively affects a woman’s quality of life. It addresses both functional and aesthetic concerns.”
Alain Polynice, MD, breast- and body-focused plastic surgeon at the Williams Center Plastic Surgery Specialists, notes that patients often specifically request a breast reduction at his Albany, NY, practice to address day-to-day discomfort that cannot be managed through non-surgical means.
“My female patients often come in complaining of chronic back and neck pain, discoloration and grooves from bra straps being tightened to accommodate breast weight,” Dr. Polynice said. “Sometimes, they even present with rashes in the breast crease due to intertriginous [where two skin areas touch or rub together] sweat and friction.”
Besides functional issues, many women simply feel self-conscious about the size of their breasts, and have difficulty finding clothing and bras that fit correctly and make them look proportionate with the rest of their body.
Breast reduction surgery (technically known as reduction mammoplasty), is a procedure meant to reduce the size of the breasts by removing fat, glandular tissue, and/or skin. Sometimes, the surgeon may also perform a breast lift or mastopexy in conjunction with the breast reduction procedure to preserve or enhance symmetry and projection for a more youthful appearance.
Patients who receive referrals to plastic surgeons from other doctors for corrective breast reduction are often under the mistaken impression that their insurance provider will cover their surgical costs. But if the same or similar procedure is also performed for cosmetic purposes, the requirements to showcase medical necessity tend to be higher compared to purely reconstructive ones.
Since breast reduction could be cosmetic, functional/reconstructive, or both (depending on what the patient’s goals are), insurers often require a certain threshold of documented proof that the patient has a certain number of health-related concerns, and their physicians have tried to rectify functional problems through other, less expensive means.
Unfortunately, there is no standardized threshold that applies across all insurance companies, making it necessary for patients to attempt a host of other procedures (such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, orthopedic consultations, or dermatologic treatment, to name a few) before their providers take their request for surgical coverage seriously, or simply for the procedure pay out of pocket.
Anyone interested in receiving a breast reduction should educate themselves not only on the risks and benefits of the procedure, but also what their provider requires if they require insurance to cover the cost of treatment.
Insurance companies sometimes annually change their threshold or requirements, so patients should keep themselves updated accordingly. Dr. Polynice recommends patients contact their health insurance provider and have them send in writing their detailed requirements for coverage.
Whether you ultimately pay for the procedure out of pocket or through insurance, breast reduction can yield very satisfying physical and psychological results. The large majority of patients who receive it report significant improvements in their day-to-day activities and overall quality of life, as well as in their self-confidence and body image.
Dr. Polynice would be happy to answer questions from anyone who is interested in learning more about what a breast reduction entails and whether it might be right for them. To request a consultation with him, contact the Williams Center Plastic Surgery Specialists online or by phone at (800) 742-2797.