Cosmetic surgery isn’t just about vanity anymore – says Professor Laurence Kirwan
Breast reduction surgery, largely dismissed under the catch-all phrase ‘plastic surgery,’ has received a lot of negative attention in the press.
It’s often cited as simply a celebrity’s over indulgence. However, the surgery has many health benefits, including allowing people to live longer.
“One of the procedures I carry out most often is breast reduction. The procedure removes excess breast tissue, which causes health problems for some women,” said Dr. Laurence Kirwan, who has clinics in London, New York and Connecticut.
“It’s a complicated technique that involves making an incision around the pigmented area surrounding the nipple, the areola, and down the breast vertically toward the breast crease.
“In extreme cases, it might be necessary for the surgeon to detach the areola and nipple entirely during surgery so they can be repositioned,” Dr. Kirwan said.
Weight reduction of as little as 250 grams from each breast, combined with a breast lift, has been shown to produce measurable benefits.
“My most famous patient, who has been very open about it, is Swedish-born television presenter Ulrika Jonsson. Her large breasts caused her a great deal of back pain. So in 2009, we reduced her bust from 32E to 32C,” Kirwan said.
Damage to the body caused by overly large breasts is significant and can include slipped discs, nerve damage and curvature of the spine, he said.
Overly large breasts also can hinder the ability to exercise. So patients who want to improve their health might find breast reduction is the stimulus necessary to begin losing weight, Kirwan said.
Studies have shown that patients who had breast reduction surgery were more physically active, had better glucose control and reduced their risk of diabetes and other conditions, he said.
Unfortunately, many women suffering from the physical strain of overly large breasts are too embarrassed to consult their general practitioners lest they get dismissed as wanting the surgery just for vanity’s sake, Kirwan said.
Breast reduction surgery also is not always covered by health insurance, especially if a patient is considered overweight. It can cost up to £8,000 if paid for by the patient.
“Forget the issues of self-esteem and body image – the women I see who are desperate for breast reduction are in a great deal of discomfort,” Kirwan said.
According to a 2007 American study and a 2008 Scandinavian study, breast reduction surgery’s benefits are similar to those of other surgeries more recognized as being beneficial for health, such as hip replacements.
Researchers estimate overly large breasts can shorten a woman’s life span by up to five years due to the cumulative damage to the body. They can cause women to ‘stoop over’ earlier, damaging nerves and discs in their backs. Breast reduction surgery prevents this damage, prolonging the spine’s long-term health, Kirwan said.
Liposuction is another procedure that can help people avoid health problems and live longer.
Originally developed to remove fat cells around the belly button, outer thighs and upper arms that were resistant to diet and exercise, liposuction never was meant to be considered an alternative to weight loss, Kirwan said.
It was meant only to contour those areas of the body, he said.”Excess fat in these areas secretes enzymes that cause inflammation in blood vessels and can lead to heart disease,” Kirwan said. “These chemicals also may cause diabetes, a disease that affects the health of the eyes, kidneys, heart, nerves and feet.”
Numerous studies have concluded reducing the body’s fat load means the pancreas, which controls glucose levels in the bloodstream, doesn’t get overworked, he said.
“I see many women who’ve had babies and can’t get rid of their pot belly, no matter how many stomach crunches they do,” Kirwan said.
“This is because the rectus abdominis muscles, or the six-pack, which run from the ribcage down to the pelvis, separate in the middle and result in a type of hernia.”
While exercising can strengthen these muscles, the gap will never disappear without a ‘tummy tuck,’ Kirwan said.
A tummy tuck can relieve back pain resulting from this gap by repairing the separated muscles and tightening the area again, increasing core strength.This allows patients to exercise without pain, potentially increasing their lifespan because they are fit and healthy, Kirwan said.