This article will provide an overview of the different types of breast surgery and the reasons why patients seek these. Although this topic is most relevant to cosmetic surgeons, it is also useful for non-surgical aesthetic practitioners who may discuss initial concerns with an existing patient and will therefore be able to give them a brief introduction of information before referring to a surgical colleague.
What is cosmetic breast surgery?
The Cambridge English dictionary defines cosmetic surgery as ‘any medical operation that is intended to improve a person’s appearance rather than their health.’1 But some questions to consider are: does this include psychological as well as physical health? Would breast reconstruction following a double mastectomy improve a patient’s psychological health? And, should the NHS fund this surgery?
What conditions and operations does cosmetic surgery encompass?
Firstly, although breast reconstruction is essentially a cosmetic procedure it is classified as reconstructive rather than cosmetic so will be excluded from this discussion.
The main procedures are: breast enlargement, breast reduction, breast uplift, breast uplift with enlargement, removal of breast implants, removal of breast implants with an uplift, exchange of breast implants, areolar reduction, inverted nipple correction, nipple reduction and correction of the male breast (gynaecomastia). These operations occupy more than 80% of my working hours.
In my career I have focused on bowel, hand, burn and cancer surgery, but I can honestly say that breast surgery has proved the most rewarding. For a surgeon, it combines artistry with technical ability; for a patient it can make real and longstanding improvements to their mental and physical health. In addition, technical advances in surgical technique, implant quality, and patient education systems such as the 3D scanner, continue to push the speciality forwards. I would like the take home message from this article to be that breast surgery treats real functional and psychological problems. It provides a long-term solution to these and is a rewarding speciality for surgeon and patient alike.