I didn’t ask these questions because I partially didn’t care about the answers, at this point I wanted the surgery no matter what, I was prepared for anything. This worked out in the end but very easily could not have. This is a list of the questions I should have asked my doctor about my surgery and didn’t (or did and I don’t remember asking it). My mother went to my appointments with me which was very beneficial, because there was someone else in the room looking out for me and had questions of their own. I also had a surgeon that was also a teacher and she did’t leave room for a lot if questions because I felt like I was learning the entire time I was in her presence as her students were part fo the exams as well.
What are the general results for your patients? Can I see some of your previous patient’s before and afters?
I didn’t look online to see what my surgeon’s work looked like. I still haven’t. I also didn’t ask her about her work and results. If I were to do it again I would definitely ask about results and if I could see pictures of results. I think your surgeon should be able to talk about results generally and show you what they have done for other people. Some private surgeons have their own instagrams and websites. I went to OHSU and Shiliang Chang was my surgeon. Their website doesn’t have images, but they did take a before and after image, so I’m sure if someone asked they could show results. I wish I had asked to see other patient results before moving forward. Regardless, Dr. Chang is amazing and I couldn’t be happier with my care and results.
What is recovery like?
This might also be phrased in multiple ways like, how much pain will I be in afterwards? How long will the pain last? Can I call the office or send emails if I have questions during recovery? Some people report needing drains, ask your doctor if thats part of recovery. You need to know what your recovery will or might look like so if you need help you have someone to ask in advance.
I couldn’t lift my arms above 90 degrees and that made showering difficult. My grandma came up to Portland to help me during recovery and she and my mom took turns helping me shower and helping me get dressed. I also couldn’t lift over 10 pounds (which included my kitty Sylvie) so I needed help moving things. If you don’t live with someone who can help you during recovery, you need to know what your restrictions are so that you can find someone to help you a head of time.
How long is recovery?
This didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t working or taking classes at the time, but if you work or are a student you need to know how long you are going to be out so you can schedule the surgery when it will be least damaging to your income or education. Ask your surgeon what your recovery timeline is so you know what you will need help with and for how ling. If you plan to take pain killers, how long that will be and if it will affect other areas of your life like work. Length of recovery should factor into when you schedule your surgery.
Are you using sutures or glue?
I had absorbable sutures and had no idea glue was an option. After some research, I found that glue is common in breast reductions, but is more expensive than sutures. Also, some people also are allergic or sensitive to the glue (which I’m sure is the same for sutures?). I have had surgical glue on a toe and foot (coincidentally, shortly after my reduction) and I can’t imagine having it on my breasts. I am glad my doctor went with sutures. If it’s something that matters to you, you should ask your doctor about it. I wish I had asked because it would have mattered to me.
How can I best take care of my scars?
If you care and are worried about scars this is important. My doctor sold us scar treatment to use multiple times a day, but she also had very specific directions about how to massage my scars to break up the tissue and how often, and instructions for how long my breasts could be wet and how to dry them. I followed my doctor’s instructions perfectly and my scars are minimal and practically invisible (I also massaged my scars with moisturizer long after). Talk to your doctor about scars and how to take care of your incisions properly, then do it, it could change how your incisions heal and your scars develop.
What are my scar treatment options? How much do they cost? Will Insurance cover scar treatment?
I had a scar treatment gel I used multiple times a day. In My Three Year Breast Reduction Anniversary post, I share the scar treatment product information if you are curious. My other options were like sheet masks from the same brand, but there are many different options and ask your doctor about them. Decide which ones are best for you and your needs. It might be nice to wear gel sheets over your scars, but are they practical for your day to day life? What is easiest for you? Do you have any allergies? My doctor noted at the first appointment that it looked like I scar really easily and I confirmed it. She was thinking about scar treatment before she even sent the insurance request to my insurance company. We didn’t chose my scar treatment, my surgeon told us what to get and we bought it. Insurance didn’t cover it. Each 3oz tube cost about $60 and I went through two, which is a lot of money. Think about scar treatment that you can afford and talk about it with your surgeon and maybe even your primary care physician.
What will my scars look like? What shape incision are you using?
The most common incision and scar shapes are the anchor or inverted T. I have seen pictures of scars that just run along the bottom of the breast as well. Ask your surgeon what you should expect. I have an anchor incision. Ultimately, I argue that this doesn’t matter because it comes with the surgery, but it is nice to know what to expect just for peace of mind.
Ask your surgeon and doctor about the things you care about, and don’t let yourself get to a point where you are so desperate anything is good enough for you. Ask questions and if you don’t like the answers, it’s okay to talk to other surgeons covered by your insurance. You are going to a surgeon for a very important medical service, if they aren’t satisfying your needs and concerns, find someone who will. Know as much as you can about your surgery as possible. Knowledge, in this sense, can only hep you in your breast reduction process and give you agency.