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Breast Reduction

If you’re considering breast reduction surgery, you can find out more about the procedure and what you can expect on this page.

Our breast size is determined by our genes, hormones, body frame and weight. For most women, their breast size is proportionate to their body – but some women may have particularly large breasts, which can cause physical and psychological discomfort.

For many women with large breasts, breast reduction surgery can help to relieve physical symptoms such as back and neck pain and poor posture, and boost confidence.

The operation involves removing excess skin and tissue through small incisions under your breasts – and reshaping and repositioning them to give them lift and firmness. If necessary, the surgeon will also reposition your nipples to ensure a natural-looking result.

Procedure information

This webpage will give you information about a breast reduction. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a breast reduction?

A breast reduction is a cosmetic operation to make your breasts smaller, and sometimes to improve their shape.

What are the benefits of surgery?

If the operation is successful, your breasts should be smaller and have a better shape.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If you are overweight, you may be able to reduce the size of your breasts by as much as one cup size by losing weight.

 You may find it easier to cope with large breasts by wearing a custom-made bra or corset.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour and a half.

Your surgeon will make a cut on the line of the areola (the dark area around the nipple) and a vertical cut underneath your areola. They will remove some of the breast tissue, excess fat and skin. Your surgeon will reshape your breast and lift your nipple so it is in a higher position (see figure 1). 

Breast reduction







The breast is re-shaped and nipple liftedThe cuts leave an anchor-shaped scar






Figure 1

a  Excess fat and skin are removed 

b  The breast is re-shaped and nipple lifted

c  The cuts leave an anchor-shaped scar

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in a surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications

  • Developing a lump or swelling inside the breast
  • Numbness or persistent pain on the outer part of the breast
  • Loss of skin, including the areola and nipple
  • Stiff shoulder
  • Change of breast and nipple sensation
  • Reduced ability to breastfeed
  • Cosmetic problems 

How soon will I recover?

Your breasts will look discoloured and feel firm and swollen.

You should be able to go home the following day.

Most women return to normal activities within two to three weeks.

You should be able to return to work after the first week, depending on your type of job. You should be able to do a limited amount of activity, such as lifting young children, after about two weeks.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

 The results of a breast reduction improve gradually over time. Your breasts should become softer and more natural.


A breast reduction is a cosmetic operation to make your breasts smaller. It is only suitable for certain women. You should consider the options carefully and have realistic expectations about the results.


Author: Mr Eoin O’Broin MD FRCS (Plast) and Mr Graham Offer BSc FRCS (Plast)

Illustrations: Mr Eoin O’Broin MD FRCS (Plast)

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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