Breast-reduction surgery was in demand in 2017, according to new statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The breast-reduction procedure surgically removes unwanted fat, skin and glandular tissue to bring oversized or pendulous breasts into better proportion with the rest of the body.
Large breasts can develop for many reasons, including because of being overweight or sudden weight gain, genetics, changes in hormones, the use of some medications, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
There were 43,635 breast-reduction procedures performed in the United States in 2017, an 11 percent increase over 2016, when the number of breast-reduction procedures dipped 4 percent.
The reason for the increased demand? Plastic surgeons say that more women are seeking surgery to get the breasts they want after years living with large breasts.
The increase in demand for procedures is of no surprise to Dr. Mona Alqulali, F.A.C.O.G., Ph.D.
"Many women seek out the breast-reduction procedure because they are simply tired of living with pain and discomfort of large or pendulous breasts," Alqulali said.
Alqulali is an OB-GYN and cosmetic surgeon practicing in Bettendorf, Iowa.
"Women with large breasts often experience pain in their neck, back and shoulders because of the weight of their breasts pulls these areas forward," Alqulali said.
In addition to pain, many women experience numbness and tingling in their arms, hands and fingers because the weight of large breasts can also impact nerves.
"When the breasts are very heavy and pull on the muscles and joints, nerves can also be affected," Alqulali said.
Large breasts can also make breathing difficult.
"The weight of the breasts can weigh the chest down, making breathing difficult and causing the individual to struggle to breathe and be uncomfortable," Alqulali said.
Large breasts can also be the cause of painful skin infections, as sweat and germs can become trapped under the breasts.
Some women report that having large breasts makes running and other forms of exercise awkward, uncomfortable or painful and that they must resort to wearing two sports bras or bandaging or taping their breasts down to exercise more comfortably.
In addition to physical side effects and struggles, many women with large breasts also struggle with aesthetic and emotional impact, too.
"Women with large breasts often report feeling self-conscious about their body or feel that they are not taken seriously in the workplace because they have large breasts," Alqulali said.
Women with large or pendulous breasts often complain about finding clothing or swimwear that fits correctly or is not too revealing.
"The breast-reduction procedure is about both improving aesthetics and function so patients both look - and feel - good," said Alqulali.
During the breast-reduction procedure, a cosmetic surgeon makes a circular incision around the areola, leaving the nipple intact and in place, then removes unwanted fat and breast tissue. Excess skin is removed as well, and once complete, the incisions are closed. For individuals with very large or pendulous breasts, the areola and nipple may be removed completely and placed higher on the breast for a more natural appearance.
The recovery from the breast-reduction procedure takes four to six weeks, with several additional weeks of restricted activity after the procedure.
"Patients should avoid heavy lifting, running and other forms of exercise until they are healed or cleared by their surgeon," Alqulali said.
The breast-reduction procedure is not the only breast surgery that is in demand in the U.S.; breast implant augmentation was the No. 1 surgical cosmetic procedure last year totaling 300,378 breast surgeries.
ASPS. New Statistics Reveal the Shape of Plastic Surgery. 1 March 2018.