WOMEN CHOOSE PLASTIC
SURGERY BREAST PROCEDURES FOR THEMSELVES TO IMPROVE SELF-IMAGE
& ELIMINATE PAIN
October 1, 2002
Whether today or 15 years ago, women
choose to have breast augmentation, reduction and reconstruction
to improve their overall self-image or alleviate painful symptoms,
according to an August survey of American Society of Plastic Surgeons
(ASPS) members. Responses from almost 800 members across the nation
revealed surprising similarities as well as new information about
their patient's perceptions of plastic surgery procedures for
"Patients have always had very
definite ideas about their breasts," says Edward Luce, M.D.,Cleveland,
ASPS. "Throughout the ages, the female breast has been a
symbol of sexuality and maternity regardless of culture. Today
is no different and women want to feel good about their own body
When asked the primary reason their
patients offered for wanting a breast augmentation, it was discovered
that not much had changed from 15 years ago. Respondents said
91 percent of today's patients and 90 percent of patients from
the mid-eighties both said it was to improve the way they feel
about themselves. Respondents said that patients overwhelmingly
cite themselves as the primary motivator in their decision to
have augmentation (94 percent). Only four percent of respondents
said patients cited friends and two percent said they cited husbands
As for breast reduction, almost 40
percent of respondents said patients cite the desire to eliminate
back, neck and shoulder pain as the primary reason for the surgery.
When asked the primary motivation for wanting reconstruction,
95 percent of those surveyed said their patients wanted to restore
and maintain their self image.
Preferences in cup sizes were also
similar - with one important difference. Among today's patients,
respondents said cup size "C" was requested by 81 percent
of those under age 35 and 85 percent of those over age 35; with
a larger cup size "D" as the second most popular choice.
In the mid-eighties respondents said, while 70 percent of their
patients in both age groups requested "C" cup, approximately
20 percent requested a more conservative "B."
Among the concerns women expressed
about breast augmentation 44 percent of respondents said, today's
patients cited maintaining a "natural" look and feel.
With breast reduction, however, 54 percent of respondents said
their patients were concerned about scarring. For breast reconstruction,
concerns were similar to those of augmentation; 45 percent said
their patients wanted to create a "natural" feeling
and looking breast. The second biggest reconstruction concern
was complications (24 percent).
The survey results for breast reconstruction,
understandably, reflect the more serious nature of the procedure.
Half the responding surgeons said, however, that despite their
patients' concerns, 76-100 percent of women who seek a consultation
for breast reconstruction elect to have the procedure.
A controversial issue surrounding
breast reduction is insurance coverage. Plastic surgeons have
long observed that reducing breast mass can effectively alleviate
the symptoms associated with overly large breasts. However, insurance
denials and policy exclusions for the procedure are becoming increasingly
common. Among the surgeons surveyed, 18 percent said breast reduction
patients receive coverage 1 - 50 percent of the time. Seventy-four
percent of respondents said only 1 - 25 percent of the reduction
patients who are not covered by their policy elect to have the
procedure and pay for it "out of pocket."
In 2001, more than 219,000 women
had breast augmentation, more than 99,000 women had breast reduction
and almost 82,000 women had breast reconstruction, according to
the ASPS. When asked about the future of breast augmentation,
reduction and reconstruction, 49 percent of the respondents believed
that the number of augmentation procedures would increase between
1 -25 percent, while 22 percent believed it would increase by
26-50 percent. Thirty-six percent of respondents thought that
breast reduction would likely increase between 1-25 percent, and
32 percent of respondents said that breast reconstruction would
either increase by 1 -25 percent or remain the same.
In conclusion, says Dr. Luce, "While
this survey does not reveal every notion women have about these
procedures, it is interesting to get an idea of what patients
are saying to plastic surgeons about creating or recreating their
own body ideal."
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