Excessively large breasts are a real problem
Women with overly large breasts face daily struggles that most people do not fully appreciate. This condition, which doctors call macromastia, can cause a number of troubling symptoms. Women with large breasts often experience chronic pain in the breast, neck, shoulders, and upper back. Large breasts can interfere with daily activities such as exercise and sleep. Ironically, undergarments designed to help support the weight of the breasts can actually bruise, abrade, and lacerate skin on the shoulder, back, and chest. Women may even experience neurological issues in their upper spine and arms because of excess weight on the spine. Undeniably, macromastia is a serious issue. In some cases breast reduction surgery may be a solution. Like all surgery a will occur, but the severity of a breast reduction scar can be minimized with proper care.
What is breast reduction surgery?
Fortunately, breast reduction surgery is an effective treatment for most women who experience symptoms from excessively large breasts. In breast reduction surgery, also known as reduction mammoplasty, a plastic surgeon removes a certain amount of breast tissue to achieve the desired breast size. If a relatively small amount of tissue needs to be removed, the plastic surgeon may be able to perform the breast reduction using liposuction. However, most reduction mammoplasty procedures require one or more incisions in each breast. In some cases, it may be necessary for the plastic surgeon to reposition the nipple relative to the reduced breast. Generally speaking, the more tissue that needs to be removed, the more invasive and extensive surgery needs to be.
The two goals of breast reduction surgery
First and foremost, the goal of breast reduction surgery is to reduce or eliminate the symptoms that are associated with excessively large breasts, such as pain, skin issues, and nerve problems. Breast reduction surgery is not strictly an aesthetic procedure; it is intended to treat macromastia (which is why it is usually covered by health insurance). Nevertheless, most women who undergo breast reduction surgery have a second goal: to retain or even improve the appearance of their breasts. These two goals are not mutually exclusive—breast reduction surgery can reduce symptoms and provide an aesthetically pleasing result. However, women who are who are concerned about the aesthetic appearance of their breasts after breast reduction surgery must take some steps to ensure a positive outcome.
Creating an open dialogue with your plastic surgeon
If you are concerned by what you are breasts will look like after breast reduction surgery (and most women are), is important to raise the issue with your plastic surgeon early in the process. In most cases, your plastic surgeon has several surgical options (inferior pedicle, medial pedicle, free nipple grafting, etc.). As you are discussing your treatment options, ask your surgeon which approach is most likely to reduce your symptoms and leave you with symmetrical, well-proportioned breasts.
Plastic surgeons who specialize in breast reduction may be able to offer various “short scar” techniques When available, “short scar” procedures reduce the total length of scar and can often lead to an aesthetically pleasing result. Lastly, ask to see before-and-after photos before committing to a surgeon.
Ways to minimize breast reduction scars
While your plastic surgeon’s skill and choice of surgery will go a long way to reducing breast reduction scars, the steps you take after surgery are almost as important.
Follow all of your plastic surgeon’s recommendations – While it sounds simple, many people only follow some of the post-surgery instructions that they receive from the plastic surgeon. These instructions can be an invaluable resource, especially during the first several days to weeks after surgery.
Give your body what it needs to heal – Your body needs healthy fuel to heal, which means eating enough calories from lean proteins and complex carbohydrates, and also getting a full assortment of vitamins and minerals. Avoid alcohol and smoking, as these can interfere with healing.
Reduce stresses on the breast tissue – Each time the edges of the incision are stressed or strained, it potentially interferes with healing and increases your risk of developing a deep or discolored scar. Therefore, try to minimize breast movement, especially in the first days after surgery. Your plastic surgeon will likely provide you with a compression bra or bandage that will help in this regard. Remember not to lift anything over your head or push or pull with your arms after surgery, since these actions will engage your chest muscles and put stress on the wound.
Clean your wounds, but not with hot water – It is important to keep your scars clean. You can often shower as early as the day after surgery (again, read your post-surgery instructions). However hot water, steam, or saunas can cause the skin to swell, which can put stress on the healing wound.
Protect the wound from sunlight – While normal skin is sensitive to ultraviolet light from the sun, healing wounds and scar tissue are extremely sensitive to it. Sunlight can darken scar tissue, cause skin and wound irritation, and slow the healing process. While sunscreen may help modestly, barrier protection that provides the highest SPF possible (e.g. clothing, bandages, tape, etc.) is the best solution.
Scar massages can be helpful – While it is important to not disturb the surgical wound during the initial recovery period, scar massage can usually be safely started about two weeks after surgery (ask your surgeon first!). Scar massage involves gently pressing on the scar tissue in a circular pattern for approximately 10 min. at a time, three times a day. Not only is scar massage soothing, but it helps make the underlying and surrounding skin more pliable and supple.
Consider silicone sheets or gels – Silicone-based coverings are widely used to minimize breast reduction scars. They are believed to help promote wound healing by occluding the scar site and keeping the wound bed hydrated.1 However, it is unclear whether there is something uniquely helpful about silicone or whether tape can provide similar benefits.2 To achieve optimum results, silicone gels must be used more or less constantly for 6 to 12 months.1
Medical tape can minimize the appearance of a breast reduction scar – Surgeons and wound care nurses have noticed that taping surgical wounds can help minimize the appearance of scars. Most experts recommend taping the wound for at least seven days after surgery; however, some experts suggest taping the wound for as many as 12 weeks after surgery for the greatest effect.3
Choosing a medical tape to minimize breast reduction surgery scars
If used faithfully, most forms of medical tape can likely minimize the appearance of scars after breast reduction surgery. However, there are several reasons why Hy-Tape is the best choice for minimizing breast reduction surgery scars.
Hy-Tape is occlusive and can maintain adequate moisture in a healing wound. These are the same properties that apparently make silicone gel and silicone sheeting so useful in wound healing.1 The occlusive properties of Hy-Tape also create a UPF50+ barrier to protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet light.
Choosing a tape that is gentle to skin is critical to fostering good wound healing (recall that stresses on scars can interfere with wound healing). While Hy-Tape adheres strongly to skin and can stand up to warm showers, it also releases easily and cleanly when it is time to change the tape. Taping the scar is only helpful if you can exchange the tape without disturbed the wound.
As an added benefit, Hy-Tape’s zinc oxide-based adhesive is naturally soothing to skin, a feature that is especially welcome during the first several days after breast reduction surgery.
For these reasons, Hy-Tape may be the best choice for taping scars after breast reduction surgery.
1. Bleasdale B, Finnegan S, Murray K, Kelly S, Percival SL. The Use of Silicone Adhesives for Scar Reduction. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2015;4(7):422-430. doi:10.1089/wound.2015.0625
2. Tollefson TT, Kamangar F, Aminpour S, Lee A, Durbin-Johnson B, Tinling S. Comparison of Effectiveness of Silicone Gel Sheeting with Microporous Paper Tape in the Prevention of Hypertrophic Scarring in a Rabbit Model. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2012;14(1):45-51. doi:10.1001/archfacial.2011.62
3. Atkinson JA, McKenna KT, Barnett AG, McGrath DJ, Rudd M. A Randomized, Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Paper Tape in Preventing Hypertrophic Scar Formation in Surgical Incisions That Traverse Langer’s Skin Tension Lines. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2005;116(6):1648-1656; discussion 1657-1648. doi:10.1097/01.prs.0000187147.73963.a5