So you are considering cosmetic breast surgery (breast enlargement, breast uplift or breast reduction) and want to find out more about the procedures. There are a number of pathways you can take to learn more about the procedure and most people start by typing in “breast surgery” or “breast implants” into Google. You are then faced with a whole host of health care providers selling their services with varying content on the surgical procedure, cost, the surgeon, etc. The other common vehicle for information is a friend or relative who has had a similar procedure performed.

Whatever method you use, you will find an enormous amount of information on the internet – so how on earth do you decide, for instance, which hospital you should choose and which surgeon should carry out the operation?

Here are some questions that you should have thought about before you see your surgeon:

Why do you want surgery?
Have you thought of non-surgical methods?
What are your expectations from the surgery?
How would you feel if the surgery didn’t meet your expectations?
These are extremely important questions to think about. Don’t under-estimate the fact that you are seeking surgery on “normal” healthy breasts with the intention of improving the cosmetic appearance of them. Surgery can have complications and that’s why the next “top tips” will help you in minimising the risks from surgery (but not eliminate completely).

Factors when considering which surgeon to choose:

Is he/she on the specialist GMC register (you can search for their name on the GMC website: www.gmc-uk.org)
Do they have an NHS practice and what is it? Ideally, you should choose a Surgeon who performs breast surgery and reconstruction in their NHS practice as they are more likely to carry out these types of procedures on a regular basis
How many of these procedures have they carried out? Like anything, someone who performs these procedures regularly is likely to have the best results. As a rough guide, you should select a surgeon that performs more than 30 procedures per year. Most surgeons will have a record including photos of patients they have operated on and patient testimonials they will be happy to share with you.
Are they a member of any professional societies for example Association of Breast Surgeons (ABS) or BAPRAS. Surgeons have to meet certain criteria to be a member of these societies.
What is their infection and implant loss rate (if carrying out breast augmentation). As a guide, you should find a surgeon with an infection rate of less than 5%, and an implant loss rate of less that 3%. This information should be readily available – if its not, then alarm bells should ring.
Most websites will have a profile of the surgeons so look for the information in there.

What about where to have your operation?
I would advise you to have your surgery as close to home as possible for obvious reasons. However, choice of surgeon, price and hospital reputation all feed into the decision making process. Make sure the hospital has CQC (Care Quality Commission) registration which ensures the hospital has met certain quality care standards. It is important to have sight of the terms and conditions laid down by the hospital. This is important if there are complications as you need to know if you will be charged for extra procedures that you may require. I believe it is important to operate in a theatre that has “clean air.” This is a special addition to the theatre environment that removes potential bacteria from the surrounding operating field which can help to reduce infection rates. I would also encourage patients to, where possible, have their surgery done as a day case procedure so you will be back in your own home that evening.

In summary, think carefully about why you wish to pursue cosmetic breast surgery and speak to people who have been through the process themselves. Choose your surgeon carefully, paying particular attention to their NHS practice (if they have one) and what they do at their NHS hospital. Look for tangible evidence to suggest safe practice – such as infection rates – and find out whether or not the hospital is geared up for day case procedures. But above all, don’t rush into it and make sure you meet with your surgeon and feel comfortable with him/her before parting with your hard earned money. It may be tempting to go for what looks like a cheaper option, but you may pay more in the long run if you have to pay for revisions and follow-up procedures.