Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Can breast reduction cause breast cancer

Breast reductions are a popular procedure, but they aren’t without their risks. One of the most common concerns is whether or not a breast reduction can cause cancer.

As with any surgery, there are some risks involved with getting a breast reduction. The first risk is that of infection. This can be controlled by following your doctor’s instructions for wound care and keeping your follow-up appointments.

The second risk is that of visible scarring after the procedure. The amount of scarring will depend on how much skin needs to be removed during the procedure, as well as where the incision is made on your body (you should discuss this with your doctor). If you have concerns about scarring after a breast reduction, talk to your doctor about alternatives like laser surgery or other non-surgical options like silicone injections or fat transfer into your breasts.

The third risk associated with breast reduction surgery is related to its long-term effects on health—specifically if it could cause cancer down the line. According to research published in “Aesthetic Plastic Surgery”, there isn’t enough evidence from studies done on humans so far to determine whether or not there is any link between breast reductions and increased risk for cancer development later in life

can breast reduction cause breast cancer

Sept. 19, 2000 — Breast-reduction surgery can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer, especially if she is over 50, according to a study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. But experts interviewed by WebMD say that this alone is not a reason for most women at high risk for breast cancer to have the surgery.

“If a woman is seriously considering the reduction of tissue in her breast because she is very concerned about the likelihood of developing breast cancer, she should know that partial removal — as opposed to completely removing the entire breast — results in a meaningful reduction in risk,” says John D. Boice Jr., ScD, the study’s author.

But he adds that his study results do not necessarily apply to everyone and that each woman should discuss the risks and benefits of such surgery with her physician.

For the study, Boice, who is scientific director at the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Md., and colleagues studied health records of nearly 32,000 Swedish women, with a median age of 33, who had undergone breast-reduction surgery. The women’s cases were followed up for an average of eight years.

Based on statistical estimates, the researchers expected to find 224 cases of breast cancer in this group, but instead they found 161 — 28% less than expected. The gap was even bigger for women who were over 50 when they had the breast-reduction surgery: The researchers found 43% fewer cases of breast cancer than expected in this group.

That result is not entirely surprising, says Arthur Michel, MD, director of the breast center at Highland Park Hospital in Highland Park, Ill. “This may just be due to the fact that you reduce the risk by [simply] removing the tissue,” he says. “I think that’s nice to know.” Michel was not involved in the study.

What are the risks of breast reduction surgery?

The decision to have breast reduction surgery is extremely personal. You will have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks of breast reduction surgery and potential complications are acceptable.

Your plastic surgeon and/or plastic surgery staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks or potential complications.

Possible breast reduction surgery risks include:

  • Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injectable agents
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Bleeding (hematoma)
  • Blood clots
  • Breast asymmetry
  • Breast contour and shape irregularities
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
  • Damage to deeper structures – such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles and lungs – can occur and may be temporary or permanent
  • Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • Excessive firmness of the breast
  • Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Infection
  • Pain, which may persist
  • Poor wound healing
  • Possibility of revisional surgery
  • Potential inability to breastfeed
  • Potential loss of skin/tissue of breast where incisions meet each other
  • Potential, partial or total loss of nipple and areola
  • Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
  • Unfavorable scarring

You should know that:

  • Breast reduction surgery can interfere with certain diagnostic procedures
  • Breast and nipple piercing can cause an infection
  • Your ability to breastfeed following reduction mammaplasty may be limited; talk to your doctor if you are planning to nurse a baby
  • The breast reduction procedure can be performed at any age, but is best done when your breasts are fully developed
  • Changes in the breasts during pregnancy can alter the outcomes of previous breast reduction surgery, as can significant weight fluctuations

The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single breast reduction procedure and another surgery may be necessary.

The procedure

The procedure entails the removal of the fat, skin and glandular tissue that are in excess in the breasts. It is requested by patients of different ages who want to get relief from the many discomforts associated with having overly large breasts. After the procedure, the size of the breasts should be in line with the rest of the patient’s anatomy and proportionate to the dimensions of the thorax.

For many patients, breast reduction contributes to the increase of self-esteem levels, and in a vast majority of cases, it increases functionality for women who can engage in physically demanding activities and sports more easily after the surgery. To find out all the details of breast reduction, as well as the long-term consequences and how to prepare for it, you should schedule a meeting with the plastic surgeon.

When it comes to the risks and complications that can occur after breast reduction, they are often infections, unsatisfactory results, vicious scarring, and difficulties or an inability to breastfeed. However, developing cancer is not among the risks and complications of breast reduction. Moreover, there has been a study published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal that shows that breast reduction surgery can actually reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, especially for patients over 50 years old.

In other words, the partial removal of the mammary gland for a patient with high risk of developing breast cancer can actually decrease the chances of that patient getting breast cancer as the tissue is more limited. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should get breast reduction just to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. You should have a strong medical recommendation for the procedure, just like in any other procedure.

So, the answer to the question “Can breast reduction cause cancer?” is a firm “no.” However, as we have mentioned before, there are other risks associated with the procedure and the patient should be well aware of them before scheduling the procedure. Moreover, keep in mind that just like any other surgery performed on a patient over a certain age (senior patients), the recovery period might be longer and associated with more risks due to the advanced age of the patient.

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