Bigger is Not Always Better: Breast Reduction for Teens

Until fairly recently, breast reduction surgery for teenagers was frowned on; this kind of surgery was delayed until well into adulthood. The attitude about the timing of this surgery has changed and the negative physical and emotional effects of having disproportionately large breasts can now be addressed earlier. Although age and maturity should be considered, a recently published medical study notes that a teen’s breast size won’t change significantly after the first three years of menstruation, and thus breast reduction for teens is considered an appropriate solution.

A study conducted by Dr. Brian Labow, a pediatric Plastic Surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, and his colleagues looked at the effects of adolescent macromastia, a condition in which one or both breasts exceed 3% of the body’s total weight. The study appeared this summer in the medical journal Pediatrics. It confirms what the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) also notes: that disproportionately large breasts in adolescence can affect young women physically and emotionally. Large breasts cause physical problems such as neck, shoulder, and back pain, as well as stretching of the skin envelope.

In the study, teens and young women reported negative side effects such as low self-esteem, unwanted attention, and difficulty in finding appropriate clothing that fits—all big issues to teenagers. In some cases, young women reported body image and eating disorders associated with their large breasts. Losing weight is not a solution, even for obese teens, since macromastia is not linked to overeating and can’t be controlled with diet.

For teen women, breast reduction surgery needs to be carefully considered. The young adult who is hoping to put troubling issues and situations behind her should be a part of the decision-making process. Insecurities may stem from her sense of being an outsider, different from her classmates. Activities such as dance and sports may be curtailed or dropped altogether. Pre-surgery counseling sessions may help put self-esteem issues into balance with the prospective procedure and its desired outcome. Teens also need to have a realistic view of the outcome of the surgery and be prepared for the recovery period.

At BEAUTY by BUFORD, we use the VASER Assisted Breast Reduction method, which is based on liposuction instead of surgery—so scarring is minimized and recovery time is dramatically shortened. As a matter of fact, this treatment is best suited for younger patients with optimal skin elasticity. However, I still offer the conventional surgical approach to breast reduction, and we will determine which procedure offers the best potential outcome for the patient during the consultation. Breast reduction can have positive health and lifestyle effects—both immediately and for the foreseeable future. After the initial recovery period, an active teen’s busy life is renewed with confidence and vigor. Pain is gone, self-consciousness reduced, and new opportunities open up.