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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Breast reduction 'helps women'
Breast reduction surgery can reduce pain
Breast reduction surgery significantly improves the quality of life and physical symptoms for large-breasted women, research suggests.

Scientists examined 29 studies involving more than 4,000 patients who underwent reduction mammoplasty.

They found that the operation helped to decrease back, neck and shoulder pain, headache, breast pain and numbness and pain of the hands.

In this study, ample data support the claim that this is a procedure of health benefit to the patients involved

Mayo Clinic Proceedings
The researchers also found that women who had small bodies relative to their breast size were most likely to suffer pain.

Many health insurers are reluctant to provide cover for breast reduction surgery, arguing that it is cosmetic and not therapeutic.

But, writing in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Dr John Woods, of the Mayo Clinic and Dr Robert Goldwyn, editor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, say that while this may be true for a few patients, it is not for the majority.

They say: "In this study, ample data support the claim that this is a procedure of health benefit to the patients involved."

Refusal to pay

Professor David Sharpe, a consultant plastic surgeon based at Bradford Royal Infirmary, said he had failed to persuade medical insurance companies to pay for breast reduction surgery even in cases where it was obvious that the patient required the operation on medical grounds.

He told BBC News Online: "There is a balance to be struck. Breast reduction causes scars, can lead to loss of nipple sensation and women who undergo the operation cannot breastfeed.

"I would not recommend it for women purely to make the breasts moderately smaller, but where there is good evidence that large breasts are causing backpain and other significant problems then it should be done."

Professor Sharpe said that some women were prevented from taking part in everyday activities because of the size of their breasts.

"I have one patient who wants to be a sports instructor, but she cannot go jogging even though she is very fit.

"Other women have to put up with men talking to their breasts. They get a lot of lewd comments.

"That might sound trivial, but it can be quite psychologically distressing."

Large breasts are also associated with a skin condition called intertrigo, which is caused by excessive sweating.

Women undergoing hormone replacement therapy may be vulnerable to developing large breasts.

Young women with large breasts may be suffering from a condition called virginal hyperplasia. The cause of this condition is unknown, but it is thought that it might be caused by elevated levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen.

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26 Apr 01 | Health
Breast ops for servicewomen
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