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Breast Augmentation: Overview FAQ

What is breast augmentation surgery (breast enlargement)?

Breast Augmentation is an operation to enlarge, or change the shape of a woman's breasts. This is done by putting saline implants under the breast tissue or under one of the chest wall muscles (explained below.)

Breast augmentation surgeries are some of the most common procedures done in the United States each year, and a majority of patients are very satisfied with their results. A majority of patients also state that they recommend this procedure to others and report a positive benefit in how they view their bodies. Hopefully, by reading this information and working with your plastic surgeon, you can decide whether this surgery is right for you.
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Who is a candidate?

Women who wish to make their breasts larger for personal or psychological emotional reasons.

Women who want to correct size differences between the breasts.

Women who want to return to a breast size they were before breastfeeding or pregnancy.
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Who is not a candidate?

Women who have serious medical problems. Prior illness can change the way the body heals and can lead to problems during or after surgery. Your plastic surgeon will advise you on the potential impact of any health problems with your surgery.

Women who have unrealistic expectations concerning the results of the operation. This surgery changes only a small part of the body. Though some women report that they are happy with their new breasts and enjoy their new look, this surgery should not be seen as a cure for poor self-esteem, unhappiness with body image, or troubled relationships.

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer. Women who have this family history should think hard about having this surgery since having implants might affect breast cancer screening, particularly mammograms (x-raying the breast tissue).

Women who have a personal, or family history of numerous breast cysts may not be good candidates for, breast augmentation surgery might not be the right choice. In these patients, biopsies are often required to rule out breast cancer. If needles biopsies are required, deflation of the implant is a risk.

Women who are currently pregnant, or breast-feeding. These women should wait until they have finished breast-feeding.

Women who are actively losing or gaining weight. Since weight loss or gain can change the shape and size of the breasts, a patient should wait until they are at a stable weight before getting breast implants.

Lastly, women with poor mental health that may prevent them from following pre/postoperative guidelines, or women who are being influenced in their decision by others.
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Am I too old for the surgery?

Many women in their 40's and 50's have undergone breast augmentation surgery with good results. The most common patient for this surgery is a woman in her 30's with two children who has been considering this operation for many years.

Cook RR et al. The prevalence of women with breast implants in the United States. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 48(4):519-525, 1989
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Should I wait until I am finished having children before having breast augmentation?

Pregnancy will change the size and shape of a woman's breasts whether she has implants or not. These changes may adversely affect the cosmetic appearance of any augmented breast.

It is usually recommended that pregnancy be postponed until 6 months after the surgery. Breast-feeding with implants is still possible and has been shown to be safe for the baby and the mother.
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Will having a breast augmentation increase my chances of getting breast cancer?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by women considering this surgery. Many studies have shown that women who get implants are not at an increased risk for getting breast cancer. In addition, implants do not delay the detection of breast cancer. Numerous studies, as well as evidence from the National Cancer Institute, show that having implants does not hinder the patient or their physician in finding breast tumors. Finally, breast implant patients who do get breast cancer have the same chance of obtaining remission, or being free of cancer for 5 years, as women without implants. (See article below as well as the References section for additional information and journal articles.)

1. McLaughlin JK, et al. Cancer Risk Among Women with Cosmetic Breast Implants: a Population-Based Cohort Study in Sweden. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol.90, No.2, Jan 21, 1998
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Will breast augmentation also work in people with droopy or sagging breasts?

Women with sagging breasts, which is called "ptosis", can also receive breast implants. Depending on how much the breast sags, an additional surgery may also be necessary. For breasts with nipples that droop below the lower crease of the breast, a breast lift surgery, or mastoplexy, is often required as well. This surgery will also add scars around the nipple unlike most breast augmentation surgeries. Without this additional surgery to remove excess skin, placement of the implant can cause the breast to have a "double bubble" or "snoopy breast" look. Commonly, women with sagging breasts often have the implants placed under the breast tissue, or "subglandular" to avoid these problems.
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