Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 10:38 UK

Right bra 'could halt breast ops'

Back pain
Large breasts can lead to severe back pain

Bra fitting clinics in hospitals could prevent thousands of unnecessary and expensive breast reduction operations every year, it is claimed.

A London hospital offering bra checks says so far, none of the women tested has been wearing the correct cup size.

This can lead to pain in the neck, back and shoulders, say doctors, sometimes so severe that women seek surgery.

A leading breast surgeon said women tended to over-estimate by up to three cup sizes when buying a bra.

To date, 100% of those fitted have been wearing the wrong size
Dr Alex Clarke
Royal Free Hospital

Reduction surgery is frequently requested by large-breasted women who are suffering discomfort, and is available on the NHS in some areas, although many women opt to pay for the operation themselves at the cost of many thousands of pounds.

Approximately 10,000 women a year have breast reductions carried out privately in the UK.

However, Dr Alex Clarke, a clinical psychologist from the Royal Free Hospital in London, said that this could be money wasted, when all that was really needed was a better-fitting bra.

She said: "Women have the opportunity to be properly fitted by an expert bra fitter when they visit the clinic.

"This may be the first proper fitting they have had.

"To date, 100% of those fitted have been wearing the wrong size - this results in the weight of the breasts being carried by the shoulders rather than the chest and contributes to back pain."

Major surgery

Professor Kefah Mokbel, a consultant breast surgeon at St George's Hospital in London, agreed with Dr Clarke.

Last year he spoke at a British Medical Association conference calling for bra-fitting clinics to be routinely available on the NHS.

"Research suggests that women tend to underestimate the size of their back by up to four inches, and overestimate their cup size by up to three sizes.

"Many breast symptoms related to discomfort in the neck and back are caused by ill-fitting bras.

"Patients present to specialists requesting breast reduction to relieve their symptoms, and current guidance in the NHS is that, if the patient has symptoms, breast reduction should be offered.

"However, many patients could be spared what is in fact major surgery by having a bra which is correctly fitted and offering them the right support."

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