Breast augmentation needs to be understood always as surgically increasing the size and/or shape of one or both of a woman’s breasts. It is not breast reduction or reconstructive surgery. By definition it is cosmetic surgery, so its primary purpose is to make the woman’s bust look more attractive.
When to Consider Breast Augmentation
Since breast augmentation, which can also be called breast enhancement surgery, is a cosmetic procedure, the question of when a woman should consider the procedure is largely a personal matter. Doctors can give you the technical specifications and a technical analysis, but the final decision always rests with the woman. Generally, there are 3 major reasons breast augmentation is considered by women:
- 1) To enlarge the size of their breasts – This is the most obvious reason and is very personal because only a woman knows how large of a bra cup will make her look attractive. Doctors will advise the potential patient on the pros and cons of adding too much size, but most women make a reasonable decision from a medical viewpoint.
- 2) To obtain symmetry between the breasts – The more formal term for this is asymmetrical breasts, which are uneven in size. This can be the result of breast surgery or the presence of non-cancerous growths can be the root cause of the problem. Breast plastic surgery may be the best way to even things out.
- 3) To increase a woman’s self-esteem – Some women have very small breasts proportional to their general skeletal structure. It is the opposite problem of women who seek breast reduction surgery, where there is just too much stress on their bodies. Breast augmentation can add the needed inches to the woman’s bust to make her feel more feminine and give Mother Nature a little help.
There are a few basic medical guidelines to keep in mind. If you are breastfeeding or not in good physical health, you are likely to be rejected as a candidate. Also, you need to have realistic expectations about what breast augmentation surgery can do for you.
Types of Implants
Not all breast implant surgery has to do with silicone. Silicone is one of the more common materials in cosmetic surgery, but there are also saline implants and fat transfer implants. Here is a brief look at each of these types of breast implants.
This type of implant is filled with a sterile saline (salt) water solution that has the advantages of maintaining their shape and having a more natural feel when touched or squeezed (sometimes known as “the squeeze test”). They are approved by the FDA, so have been tested to be safe. In the event of a leak, the saline solution is absorbed into the body, but you will have to go in for a refill.
- Structured saline-filled
These are the same type of implants as the Saline-filled, but an internal structure is added inside the implant to give it a more natural feel to the woman.
- Silicone gel-filled
The most talked about implant, the Silicone gel-filled, is made of exactly what it says – a silicone gel. But there is a small advantage in that silicone implants feel slightly more natural than the saline-filled model. Another more important advantage is the implant will not collapse if leakage occurs. This is why they are the most popular choice. The trade-off you have to make is you will be required to schedule periodic appointments with the doctor for an ultrasound or MRI to ensure the implants are working correctly because the implant can leak but because of the silicone you will not notice it. Silicone gel-filled implants have been approved by the FDA for women over the age of 22.
- Cohesive gel silicone gel-filled
An implant that is known by several names – the form-stable implant and the gummy bear implant – it is made of the same silicone material but it is thicker. It is an even firmer implant than the standard Silicone gel-filled model, but if the shape becomes distorted and shifts to one side to another, a special procedure is required to set things back in place. You likely will want to consult with your surgeon about choosing the gummy bear version before deciding.
- Fat Transfer
Also known as fat grafting, this type of breast augmentation is designed only for women who are seeking a moderate increase in breast size. The basic idea is to take fat from other parts of your body where you don’t want it (another self-esteem advantage) and use it to plump your bust up. It can also be thought of as liposuction without the waste, as some cosmetic surgeons use the liposuction process to transfer the fat from various parts of the body. It is clearly a more natural process and modern technology has dramatically improved its success rate.
The Fat Transfer procedure is basic and obvious. The unwanted fatty tissue is extracted from the area, where it is then processed to remove everything but healthy fat tissue. The healthy tissue is then injected into the breasts. The advantages are as obvious as the procedure, and as long as you don’t want significant inches added to your bust, this is perhaps your best choice.
The Saline and Silicone implants require a more involved surgical procedure.
Because breast implant surgery involves making an incision, you will be placed under an anesthetic recommended by your doctor.
- 1) An incision will be made in your breast area. The specific choice will be determined by a consultation with your doctor that will minimize the appearance of any scarring as much as possible. There are three common areas available for the incision: around the nipple, under the armpit, and under the breast. The length of the incision will depend on a number of your unique physiological factors.
- 2) Next, the implant is inserted. There are two locations for the implant: under the pectoral muscle and over the pectoral muscle. Placing the implant over the pectoral muscle will bring it much closer to the skin surface, a consideration when you are deciding what type of implant to use.
- 3) Finally, the incision is closed. The amount of scarring after surgery will depend on a number of factors.
Though it is an outpatient procedure, it can be expected to last between one and two hours. There is a preparation stage and a recovery stage, and full recovery can take several weeks. Immediately after the surgery you will likely be prescribed pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection. A follow up visit within a week will also be scheduled.
The Safety Factors of Breast Augmentation
Though more than 5 million women in the United States have had breast augmentation surgery of one kind or another, many candidates are hesitant to go forward because of safety concerns. We need to address this issue from two sides – the surgery itself and the long term considerations.
Cosmetic surgery is similar to many other types of surgeries performed on patients. There is always a risk of infection and post-operative bleeding. Specific to the implant itself, there could be unsightly scarring that will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair; the implant could be improperly placed; the implant could leak or rupture requiring an additional surgery; or there could be a loss of sensation around the nipple.
One longer term consideration is that if you lose or gain a substantial amount of weight, the implants will have to be replaced or removed. Expect to see your doctor regularly for a breast examination to ensure the breasts and implants remain in top condition. Finally, while implants can last many years, there is no guarantee they will last a lifetime, so it is likely you will undergo at least one more surgical procedure down the line.
From a big picture, few of these safety issues are life threatening. There are more than 5 million women who have had the procedure, so it is safe to assume that if there were significant risks you your heath you would have heard of them by now. However, always consult with your physician before making a final decision and be sure to ask all your questions about your safety concerns.
Cost of Breast Augmentation
Data gathered by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons from 2017 places the average cost of breast augmentation surgery at $3,719. Check to see if your health insurance plan covers cosmetic surgery, and under what circumstances. When considering the many years of benefits you will get from the procedure, the price of the surgery may be seen as a bargain.