To many people, breasts represent beauty and femininity. Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure that can be used to enhance the size, shape, or fullness of the breasts. This procedure has a number of important benefits for the transwoman. It can provide a greater sense of congruence between her inner and outer selves, enhance her confidence and self-esteem, and help her to “blend in” more effectively in society as a woman. For these reasons, breast augmentation is a vital step in the male-to-female transition.
During the breast augmentation procedure, which is also known as augmentation mammoplasty, implants are placed either over (sub-glandular placement) or under (sub-muscular placement) the chest wall muscle. Placing the implant under the muscle can create a more natural look, but recovery time and pain tend to be a bit more with this method. In order to place the implant, the surgeon will make a small incision near the breast area, then create a pocket that will hold the implant. Possible locations for the incision include the areola, axilla (armpit), or the bottom of the chest muscle. Your surgeon at ICTC can help you to decide which technique is best suited for your unique anatomy.
Breast augmentation is a very common and safe procedure. Typically, the surgery takes about one to two hours to complete. It is usually performed on an outpatient basis using general anesthesia, which means that the patient is asleep during the procedure. Dissolvable sutures are placed during the surgery, and the patient will wear an ace bandage around the breasts until the first post-op appointment.
Several types of implants are currently available, including both saline and silicone options. At ICTC, our surgeons prefer to use smooth, round, moderate or high profile implants. Mentor, the maker of these implants, offers a 10-year warranty in case of rupture and guarantees them for life. While both saline and silicone implants can offer excellent results, silicone implants tend to look a bit more natural compared to saline implants. This type of implant can be a good option for transwomen, who tend to have less breast tissue. However, silicone implants do require a larger incision for placement, which means that any post-surgery scarring will also be more significant. Your surgeon will work with you to weigh the pros and cons and choose the best implants for your needs.
Many breast augmentation patients have questions about what they’ll experience during the recovery period. Fortunately, recovery time tends to pass fairly quickly with this procedure. Most patients are able to return to work in about one week. During the first few days post-surgery, rest is extremely important. Use of the arms should also be limited during the first week, which means no driving, lifting, or reaching. The breasts will likely feel tender and swollen, but most patients report that their pain is mild to moderate. You’ll be sent home with a prescription for medication to address any pain issues. Breast massage is an important self-care technique that will improve your body’s ability to heal from the surgery—you’ll be taught this technique at your post-op appointment.
Because breast augmentation is such a safe procedure, complications are infrequent and tend to be minor. However, possible complications include hematoma (a collection of blood under the skin), sensory changes of the breast or nipple, firming of the breasts due to scar tissue, infection, poor healing (often related to tobacco use), and reactions to the anesthesia. Additionally, there is the potential for leakage or rupture of the implant itself—about a 1-2% chance of rupture per year.
While breast augmentation is similar for trans and cis gender women, transgender women do have some special considerations to keep in mind. Generally, the transgender woman has a broader chest and shoulders, so a larger implant may look more natural and proportional. Additionally, transwomen tend to have slightly lower nipples, which means that the natural breast crease may need to be lowered during surgery so that the nipple is properly centered on the implant. Finally, compliance with after-care measures is particularly important for the trans patient. Transwomen typically have a larger pec muscle that causes the implant to be held higher on the chest wall, but diligent breast massage and compression will allow the implant to “drop” into a more natural position.
In order to obtain the best possible results from surgery, the transwoman will ideally have taken hormone therapy for at least 12 months before undergoing breast augmentation. Initiating hormone therapy will result in nipple growth and the development of some breast tissue, which means that the surgery is likely to be more successful, with better cosmetic results.
As the patient, it’s very important to have realistic expectations going into breast augmentation surgery. While your breast augmentation will result in fuller, more feminine breasts, the results may not be perfect. Augmented breasts tend to look and feel somewhat different than natural breasts, particularly in transwomen who undergo breast augmentation in middle-age or beyond. The breasts may be firmer, rounder, and slightly further apart. Transwomen who are considering breast augmentation can try out implant sizers to get a better idea of how their breasts might look and feel after surgery. Additionally, patients should keep in mind that some scarring is inevitable with breast augmentation, as this procedure requires that a surgical incision be made. Good self-care measures after surgery can help to minimize scarring.
At ICTC, we know that each patient has her own unique needs and expectations, which is why we take an individualized, patient-centered approach to gender transition services. During the preoperative consultation, your surgeon will take the time to discuss and understand your goals for breast augmentation. He will also perform a physical exam of the breast area, which will help to determine the best implants for your body, and work with you to choose these implants. Additionally, he will thoroughly explain the procedure and answer any questions you might have.
Breast augmentation is a vital component of the male-to-female transition, offering many physical and psychological benefits for the transwoman. Because this procedure differs for transwomen, it is paramount to choose a surgeon with specialized knowledge and skill. At the International Center for Transgender Care, our board-certified surgeons have more than 20 years of experience treating transgender patients. We are proud to offer all of our services in a respectful, welcoming environment at our world-class surgical center in Dallas, Texas. We look forward to assisting you in achieving the very best possible results for your breast augmentation.Contact us today to schedule a consultation at (972) 543-2477.