The Common Measurement Doctors Can't Rely on for Breast Implants

After 29-year-old Nicole Polizzi had her second baby, she took a suggestion from a friend and went to visit a plastic surgeon regarding the very personal subject of her breasts.

“I always knew I wanted to get my breasts done, but I wanted to wait until I was finished having kids. I’m about to be 30 and I felt like ‘I’m at my prime now, so it’s a good time.’ I went in, had a consultation, scheduled the surgery and that was that—I didn’t have much hesitation.”

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Side note: Nicole is also a celebrity—you probably know her best as “Snooki”—but she’s also a woman who, like a lot of us, wasn’t totally sure what size was “best” for her body.


Livingston, NJ, plastic surgeon John Paul Tutela, MD (who performed the surgery), explains, “Nicole knew she wanted a lift and an implant, which is pretty common after pregnancy. She didn’t have a preconceived notion of exactly what she wanted, so I asked her what I ask all my breast patients: What bra you are in now and what bra do you want to end up in?”

Makes sense, but Dr. Tutela says, unfortunately, it’s not a totally reliable way to measure cup size, mainly because bra size isn’t standardized.

“What we think of ‘cup size’ is inaccurate. It is not a standardized measurement, but when we ask you where you think you are, it does give plastic surgeons an idea where patients head is at gives me a clue of where their mind is at. It’s definitely a variable, no matter how it is measured.”

New York plastic surgeon Daniel Maman, MD, says, it’s something he takes “with a grain of salt” when it comes to breast surgery. “We’ll assess patients on their bra size, but it’s highly variable based on manufacturer. For example, Victoria’s Secret typically runs small so that patients feel good about the fact that they are applying a larger size bra. I personally don’t care too much about bra size. I just use it to gauge patients’ expectations as to desired postoperative size. I am very clear with patients that I don’t guarantee any cup size. For me, there is a clear sign behind choosing the right implant. This is based on injection, viscosity, gel-type, implant shape, projection, and size in cc. Bra size is simply a gauge in determining patients' expectations.”

It’s those expectations that Dr. Tutela says is crucial. “The bottom line is that a patient’s opinion is the most important opinion in room. I am there to educate what is possible, what fits their body, what fits their frame and stress that natural results are key. The goal for breast surgery should be that, when you are wearing a bathing suit, people see that you have great breasts—NOT a great surgeon.”

As for Nicole’s results? “It’s not a painless process and I gave myself about a week to rest my body after the surgery, but it’s honestly the best decision I’ve ever made. My advice: Make the appointment—even if you aren’t 100-percent sure—get your options, digest them and take the time you need to decide. For me, it was worth it.”

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