Surgery Can Ease Discomfort Caused by Large Breasts

By Mackenzie Carpenter
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2001

One day several years ago, a teenager came into Dr. Raymond Capone’s office complaining about something most girls her age rarely do: “She felt self-conscious during her high school track team practices because her breasts were, in her view, too large,” he said.

But because the young patient had not yet developed bra strap depressions or rashes that are symptoms of hypermastia, the medical term for overly large breasts, he suggested she wait before undergoing breast reduction surgery.

Two years later, she was back, now complaining of back pain, neck pain and fatigue. And when Capone asked how her track team was doing, he got a disappointing answer – she had quit, too embarrassed to run in public.

In a culture obsessed with large breasts, it might be hard to believe that some women have too much of a good thing.

But the problem of oversized breasts is a real one for women of all ages, whether due to genetics, pregnancy, breast-feeding or obesity.

Today, though, more and more women are opting for breast reduction surgery, an outpatient procedure that is nonetheless major surgery, involving removal of a significant amount of breast tissue under general anesthesia. Patients can return to light duty jobs after a week, and heavy duty jobs in as little as three.

Last year, 84,780 procedures were perfromed across the country. This was up by 111 percent since 1992, which is when the American Society of Plastic Surgeons began tracking statistics.

That increase may be tied to greater awareness about the availability of this procedure and word of mouth: breast reduction surgery has a high satisfaction rate among patients afterward.

Lucinda Menard of Coudersport, Potter County, says her daughter Onee, who had the surgery two years ago at age 19, was “thrilled” with the results.
At the age of 15, all of Onee’s friends “were these tiny little petite things wearing these cute little bras, while Onee would wear these big baggy tops and slump a lot. Not anymore. She’s really gotten her confidence back.”
Ten months after her daughter did it, Lucinda Menard underwent the procedure in March 2000.

“Onee talked me into it,” said Menard, 46. “It’s now easier to dress professionally. I can find clothes that fit me. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Most insurers will cover the procedure, as long as there is evidence of bra strap depressions, neck and back pain, and that a minimum of 350 grams of breast tissue–equivalent to one-and-a-half cups–are removed from each breast.

For young women, it’s important to seek out a doctor who performs techniques to preserve the nerves around the nipple and the ducts used for breast-feeding.

But breast reduction shouldn’t be confused with a procedure called mastopexy, or breast lifting, which is a cosmetic procedure, not covered by insurance, that doesn’t involve a reduction of breast volume–only skin is removed or rearranged and is frequently accompanied by breast augmentation with implants.

For more information on breast reduction sergery, call the American Society of Plastic Surgeons at (800) 635-0635 or visit its website at

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