Breast Implants: One Size Does Not Fit All

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When it comes to implants, what looks good on one woman may not look good on another. “You can’t use the same size and shape on everyone,” says Kirkland, WA, plastic surgeon Sarah McMillan, MD. “There are a variety of factors that need to be considered so that you end up with the ideal look for your body.” On average, going larger than two-cup sizes can give a fake look and may cause heavy, uncomfortable breasts.

The goal of breast augmentation is to get breasts that are larger in size and fuller in shape. When someone refers to the size of her implants in ccs, or cubic centimeters, she is referring to how much filler is in the implant. The higher the number, the bigger the implant—approximately every 150 to 200 ccs equals about one to one-and-a-half cup sizes. “When it comes to the size you want, you can’t really depend on going by a bra size,” says Eugene, OR, plastic surgeon Mark Jewell, MD. Implants come in many sizes and some patients go much larger than their breast measurements. Most plastic surgeons feel implants beyond 450 or 500 ccs can be unnatural looking and problematic. But, Dr. McMillan says that there are some women who can pull them off. When going larger than what your breasts are capable of carrying, no matter the starting size, the tissue, fat and muscles can start to thin out, the implants can bottom out due to the heaviness of the breasts and implant rippling and wrinkling, which can make visible ridges in the breast more common. “Cup size varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and even within styles from any particular bra manufacturer,” says La Jolla, CA, plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD.

Factors to Consider:

  • The Width of Your Natural Breasts: At your consultation, your plastic surgeon may take measurements, including the base and width of your breasts. “This is important because an implant that fits the width and size of the breasts, and the build of the body will create a natural look,” says Dr. McMillan.
  • Your Body Shape: It’s important that the shape of your body is taken into consideration when choosing your size. “If you have an athletic body, you won’t look natural with really large or really narrow implants because it just doesn’t match the natural build,” says Baltimore plastic surgeon Michael D. Cohen, MD. The less natural tissue there is (thinner women tend to have less breast tissue), the harder it is for the body to camouflage the implants.
  • Your Commitment to Working Out: Any impact that’s put on the chest from exercising, sports or any other type of physical activity can actually affect implants. Bigger, heavier implants can put stress on the breasts and cause more drooping.

Insider Tip: To get a feel for how your new breasts may look on your body, ask your plastic surgeon if he or she offers 3-D imaging. “We did a study using the Canfield Vectra System to measure patient satisfaction of simulated images post operatively and the result was 98.5 percent accurate with simulation in comparison to the real outcome,” says Dallas plastic surgeon William P. Adams, MD. “Some surgeons feel imaging promises results that may not always be achievable,” explains Dr. Singer.

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