Women who experience chronic back or neck pain, sore muscles, or difficulty breathing may find that their breasts are actually to blame. Macromastia, meaning heavy or disproportionate breasts, can lead to these kinds of problems. As a result, you could also develop chest numbness, skin irritation, or even superficial ulcers. Sports, exercise, running, or fitting into certain clothes can also be difficult if your breasts are too large.

If you have considered having a breast reduction, you’re not alone. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that there has been an 11% increase in surgical and nonsurgical procedures in the past year. Here’s what to consider before you visit a cosmetic surgeon for this type of procedure:

What is a breast reduction?

A breast reduction is a procedure in which a cosmetic surgeon removes tissue and fat from the breasts to reduce the size or change the shape of the breasts. Some people have liposuction performed on their breasts, as well. Women or men can have breast reductions as long as they are healthy enough to undergo surgery, however, you should be at least 18 years old and a non-smoker. If you have tried exercise, wider bra straps, or physiotherapy and are still having problems with any of the symptoms listed above, you might consider having a breast reduction.

Pros of a breast reduction

One of the biggest benefits of a breast reduction is that your neck, shoulder, and back pain could go away once your breasts are smaller. This is cited as one of the main reasons that women undergo the procedure. Besides relieving painful symptoms, reducing breast size can have a positive impact on a woman’s confidence and overall quality of life by bringing the size of her breasts into better proportion with the rest of her physique.

Many activities that were difficult before a visit to the cosmetic surgeon will become easier afterward. Exercise and sports activities will become less burdensome, while fitting into clothes will almost always be considerably less problematic after a breast reduction.

A breast reduction can improve your self-esteem, as well. If you often feel embarrassed, or find yourself dressing to conceal your breasts, cosmetic surgery can give you more confidence in or out of your clothes.

Men who undergo the surgery will also feel more comfortable going shirtless.

Cons of Breast Reduction

Finding a reputable plastic surgeon takes time — and the downside of finding the wrong surgeon can be substantial. A poorly performed surgery can be painful, lead to post-operative complications, or simply fail to achieve the desired look.

Recovery typically takes two to four weeks. During this time, you must avoid lifting heavy objects and performing vigorous physical activity.  This may be a concern if you’re unable to take time off work or have other responsibilities that necessitate physical activity.

Plastic surgeries can leave behind scars. In most cases, scarring fades or disappears, but this may not be the case in all patients. Breast reductions can also decrease nipple sensitivity. If you are nursing or plan to nurse babies, a breast reduction could inhibit the production of milk due to tissue removal. While this is by no means a certainty, if future breast-feeding is a high priority for you, this possibility should be a part of your preoperative decision making.

If you are thinking about having a breast reduction, consider the pros and cons carefully before you select your surgeon. You should find a board-certified Plastic Surgeon who is an experienced professional before pursuing this procedure. Do your research, ask plenty of questions, make sure you are able to see examples of your doctor’s work, and don’t be afraid to see two or three (or more) surgeons before making up your mind. Above all, you should feel comfortable with your doctor before embarking on any operation with him/her and their team.