Anxiety before breast reduction surgery

Anxiety before breast reduction surgery

26th Jul 2018

Many people discover quite early in their lives that they are not terribly comfortable around medical professionals, especially when they are the patient. The doctor can be a dentist, gynecologist or even a psychiatrist, and the feeling remains the same. Even for people who are not normally anxious about going to see a doctor, it is normal to feel nervous when preparing for a surgical intervention, especially if it’s an invasive procedure with long term consequences, such as breast reduction surgery.

Breast reduction surgery is a plastic surgery performed with the purpose of improving the patient’s quality of life by providing relief from constant pain and discomfort caused by overly large breasts. Also, after the breast reduction surgery, patients find it easier to engage in sports activities that would have been otherwise a struggle. Another advantage is how easy it is to find clothing that is both flattering and well-fitted.

Anxiety before surgical interventions

Specialists in the field say that anxiety before surgery is a normal reaction of the body. The surgical intervention represents a potential danger that mobilizes and leads to the occurrence of natural psychological defenses.

Before the surgery, a phenomenon can occur that is called pre-operative angst or pre-operative anxiety. There are certain behavioral patterns that can indicate the presence of the pre-operative anxiety, such as the following:

Excessive agitation

For some, the patient can either be at ease or quite aggressive.

In their attempt to deal with the anxiety, some will focus their feelings on objects or people that are considered substitutes, thereby causing them to have a negative reaction towards people from the medical staff. At the same time, it is also possible for the patient to act the complete opposite, which is one of indifference and resignation.

On the other hand, some patients experience pre-operative anxiety without object. In other words, fear will manifest in the form of physical symptoms or through imagination.

The physical symptoms can be any of the following: lack of appetite, insomnia, nightmares, transpiration, diarrhea, and many more. As for the products of the patient’s imagination, this can be the fear of not waking up from the general anesthesia, the fear of potential complications, the fear of achieving unsatisfactory results or that the surgery can go wrong in a way that he can’t even phantom.

Consequently, it is normal for a patient preparing to undergo plastic surgery to imagine all sorts of terrible results of the procedure and even health complications that are impossible. In my practice, I have had patients who wanted to know if it is possible to get mutilated for life without a possibility of correction during a plastic surgery intervention. This is just a fear, a product of the imagination, which cannot happen in real life. Even if the procedure won’t boast spectacular results or the results that the patient expected, it doesn’t mean that the patient is mutilated. When considering procedures with unsatisfactory results, the aesthetic outcome of the initial procedure can usually be improved through the help of a revision surgery.

The breast reduction surgery

Before further discussing anxiety caused by breast reduction surgery, let’s see what actually happens when it is performed.

Even if the results of many plastic surgery interventions can be corrected easily, it is important to be aware that the feature or part of the body that was altered during the surgery won’t be the same anymore. For example, if you want to have a breast reduction surgery and the results are asymmetric breasts or breasts that are too small or still too big for your taste, we can correct it during a revision surgery, but the plastic surgeon performing the revision won’t be able to give you back the breasts you had before the initial surgery.

As we have mentioned before, the procedure is usually requested to help the patient get relief from pain and discomfort caused by the excessive volume of the breasts that is putting a constant pressure on the spine. Because the procedure has increased functionality as the main purpose, it is quite common for young women to undergo the breast reduction procedure, which includes teenagers. However, your plastic surgeon will tell you that an important condition you need to fulfil to be eligible for this plastic surgery intervention is to have a completely developed mammary glands. This usually happens once the patient turns 15 or 16, but it depends from patient to patient.

Before the procedure is scheduled, a pre-operative consultation will take place. If the patient is underage, the parents should also participate in this meeting with the plastic surgeon. During this consultation, the patient will learn more about what the breast reduction procedure entails and she will also go through a medical examination so the plastic surgeon can properly assess the condition of the mammary gland and the skin enveloping the breasts. Your plastic surgeon will also tell you whether you have breast ptosis too and how severe it is. It is quite common for patients with overly large breasts to have breast sagginess too. During the consultation, the patient will be asked to divulge their medical history, allergies, and current medication as well as her hopes and expectations from the surgery.

Once all these details have been discussed, the plastic surgeon will present the patient with a recommendation for a surgical plan that will include details about the approach and the results that can be expected. The plastic surgeon should also discuss in detail the long term consequences, such as significant scarring and difficulty, or in rare cases, an inability to breastfeed. For this reason, once we hear about the dire consequences of the breast reduction procedure, it is easy to see why pre-operative anxiety can be triggered.

Nevertheless, breast reduction surgery is indeed a life-changing procedure that aims to improve the quality of life of the patient considerably. In a vast majority of cases after the surgery, patients find it easier to engage socially, ascend at the work place and even take up sports activities that they were interested in. But it is also true that your breasts will never be the same, and this can come as a shock for really young patients or a patient who has a lot on her plate from an emotional point of view. This is the reason why I always recommend my patients to take all the time they need to make this decision. There is no rush when it comes to elective plastic surgery. The decision needs to be personal and have strong motivation behind it. Understanding and fully accepting the consequences after weighing out the pros and cons of the breast reduction procedure can help you reduce the pre-operative anxiety.

How to reduce the anxiety before the breast reduction surgery

There are a few recommendations that can help you reduce the level of anxiety before undergoing the breast reduction procedure:

Build a strong plastic surgeon-patient relationship through honest and concise communication.

The patient should ask all the questions that are of concern to her and find out everything related to the recuperation period.

The plastic surgeon should thoroughly explain to the patient all the physiological aspects that can be experienced after the breast reduction surgery: if there will be a pain, how and where will the pain and discomfort be experienced and for how long, among other things. This way we avoid the patient being taken by surprise, thereby increasing anxiety levels.

These suggestions can and will help the patient to better manage her emotions before and after the breast reduction surgery. In addition, this will ensure that the patient cooperates throughout the whole treatment process, thereby leading to better medical results.


Considering the fact that the breast reduction surgery will permanently alter the patient’s breasts and comes with a host of potential complications and long-term consequences, it is only natural for some patients to feel a certain level of pre-operative anxiety before the procedure.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize and cope with anxiety. It is important for the patient to be well informed about all the steps of the procedure and aware of the risks that come with the breast reduction surgery.

Patients should take comfort in the fact that if they are not satisfied with certain results, it is possible to correct it. Even if unsatisfactory results such as asymmetry were to occur, you should know that these can be easily corrected with the help of revision surgery.

Choosing a board-certified and experienced plastic surgeon who has done this procedure time and time again should also help reduce pre-operative anxiety before the breast reduction surgery.

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