Do I need to lose weight before having breast reduction?

Sep 4, 2015

Many of the patients I see coming in for information on breast reduction surgery are overweight. In today’s blog post I am going to discuss how being overweight can affect breast size, and whether or not you should lose weight prior to considering surgery. Let’s break it down into several commonly-asked questions:
lose weight before having breast reduction

Will my breasts be smaller if I lose weight?

Maybe, maybe not. Breasts are composed of both fat and glandular tissue. Younger women tend to have more glandular tissue, whereas older women tend to have more fat. If you lose weight, the amount of glandular tissue does not change, so if your breasts are largely glandular tissue, you won’t see a dramatic size decrease. In addition, everybody loses and gains weight differently. I tend to gain weight in my hips and thighs, whereas another person might gain weight in her stomach. So losing weight in and of itself is no guarantee that your breast size will decrease.

What if I lose weight after I have breast reduction surgery?

The answer to this question is similar to the question above. You may or may not see a decrease in breast size if you lose weight. The more weight you lose, the more likely you are to see a change in your breast size. An if your breasts do decrease in size, they can become droopy (ptotic). I generally recommend to my patients that if they are planning on losing more than 25-30lbs, they should try to do this prior to having breast reduction surgery.

What if I’m happy at my current weight, even if I am overweight?

We all have dreams, er… goals, of losing that last 10, 15, or 20lbs right? If you are considering breast reduction surgery, ask yourself honestly if you have a plan of losing weight, or if it’s just a dream. It’s okay to be happy at your current weight. But my goal as a surgeon is to perform a safe operation and minimize the risk of complications, and a patient’s weight does affect the risk of complications. A study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery looked at the number of complications after breast reduction in 675 patients. They noted a significant association between body mass index (BMI) and complication rate. This complication rate increased significantly when BMI was 35.6 or larger.

In my own practice, I balance the risks of surgical complications with the benefits a patient is likely to obtain from having a breast reduction. I often ask patients with a BMI>35 to lose weight prior to surgery, especially if they have other risk factors such as diabetes or a history of smoking. There are no hard and fast rules regarding weight, but understanding a patient’s weight loss goals is an important part of the surgical decision-making process.