Learning About Breast Enlargement Surgery

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What is breast enlargement?

In breast enlargement surgery, the doctor makes the breasts larger by putting an implant under the breast tissue and often under the chest muscle.

An implant is a soft silicone shell filled with a saline solution or a silicone gel. Silicone may create a more natural-looking breast, because its weight and texture are more like breast tissue.

How is breast enlargement done?

A doctor will make a cut (incision) in the bottom crease of the breast, in the armpit, or along the lower edge of the nipple and the dark area around the nipple. The doctor will make a pocket under the muscle or breast tissue. Then the doctor will put in the implant and adjust it to the correct shape, size, and position. The incision is closed.

Some people have a breast lift (mastopexy) at the same time as the breast enlargement. A breast lift can raise sagging or drooping breasts and pull up the nipple and the area around it. To lift the breasts, the doctor removes excess skin from the bottom of the breast or from around the nipple. The remaining skin is sewn together. This tightens and lifts the breast. A longer incision is needed for a breast lift than for a breast enlargement alone.

Breast enlargements and lifts are usually done in a hospital or outpatient surgery center. An overnight stay in the hospital isn't needed unless there are problems during surgery. You will probably be asleep during surgery.

How long does a breast enlargement take?

The surgery takes 1 to 2 hours.

What are some of the risks?

  • Breast implants may make it harder to detect breast cancer on a mammogram.
  • Scar tissue may harden around and squeeze the implants.
  • You may lose feeling in the nipples or breast tissue due to nerve damage. Often this is temporary, but it may be permanent in some people.
  • You may have changes in the implant. Normal activity or an injury to the breast can damage the implant and cause it to leak or collapse.
  • There is a small risk for cancer with implants. Breast-implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a serious cancer that develops near the implant and can lead to death. The risk seems to be higher for breast implants with a textured surface than for implants with a smooth surface.

What can you expect after breast enlargement?

After the surgery you will probably feel weak. You may feel sore for 2 to 3 weeks, and you'll likely have a lot of swelling. You may have a pulling or stretching feeling in your breast area. You can expect to feel better and stronger each day, although you may need pain medicine for a week or two. You may get tired easily or have less energy than usual. This may last for several weeks after surgery.

You may be able to go home the same day. Depending on the type of work you do, you should be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 1 to 2 weeks.

If your doctor closed your incisions with removable stitches, the stitches will be taken out in 7 to 14 days. The incisions leave scars that will fade with time. Your doctor will try to make the incisions in line with the curve of your breast as much as possible.

Wearing a support bra 24 hours a day can help reduce swelling while your breasts heal.

Your new breasts may feel firmer and look rounder. It is very important to understand that your breasts will look and feel different after surgery. The skin on your breasts may be numb. This usually gets better with time. But you may always have some loss of feeling in the nipple area.

Most breast implants don't last a lifetime. Over time, you may need surgery to remove or replace your implants.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.