The Women's Health Resource. On the web since 1997.

Breast Lift Surgery


Breast lift (or mastopexy) is a surgical procedure to lift and reshape severely sagging breasts. Over the years, breasts lose their shape and firmness from pregnancies, nursing, and the aging process. Breast lift surgery will not permanently lift the breasts; the aging process will eventually cause them to sag again. However, the procedure may temporarily delay the effects of gravity. Breast lift surgery can also reduce the size of the areola, the dark pigmented region around the nipple. Women may also increase the size of their breasts during the procedure by having an implant placed behind the breast tissue or the chest wall (pectoral) muscle.

Breast lift surgery is cosmetic and may enhance a woman’s self-esteem, but the results will probably not match her ideal. The best candidates for the procedure are women with very small, sagging breasts who are realistic about what the surgery will accomplish. Breast lift surgery may be performed on women with larger breasts, but the effects may not last as long. Breast lift surgery may be performed on women of any age, but most plastic surgeons advise women to wait until after they have had children since additional pregnancies will usually stretch the skin again and reverse the effects of the procedure.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), over 104,000 have breast lift surgeries each year in the United States. The popularity of the procedure rose dramatically in the late 1990s. In 1996, only 16,097 women had the procedure done. The majority of women who have breast lift surgery are between the ages of 35 and 50.

Initial Surgical Consultation

Women who are considering breast lift surgery will usually set up an initial surgical consultation with a plastic surgeon. All plastic surgeons should be certified by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). During the initial consultation, the surgeon will explain the effects and limitations of the procedure and take measurements of the woman’s breasts while she sits or stands. The extent of the breast lift will be affected by a woman’s age, and the shape and condition of her breasts.

Issues discussed in the initial consultation may include:

  • Effects and limitations of the surgery
  • Preparing for surgery
  • Cost of surgery (most insurance providers will not cover the cost of breast lift surgery because they consider the procedure to be cosmetic)
  • Type of facility where the operation will be performed
  • Type of anesthesia
  • The operation itself
  • Recovery
  • Possible side effects and complications

As with any surgery, women considering breast lift surgery should tell their plastic surgeons about any medications, vitamins, or other drugs they may be taking. Breast lift surgery will usually not affect the quality of future breast cancer detection with mammography.