After size K breasts left her struggling with agonizing neck and back pain, burning rashes, and low self-esteem for 20 years, Jackie Caine finally decided to have reduction surgery. Discover her story — learn what she endured and how her life-changing decision restored her health, confidence, and joie de vivre!
“Sorry for canceling our lunch date again,” Jackie Caine texted her friend after returning home from yet another round of ineffective spinal cortisone injections. The 55-year-old Delaware business coach winced in pain as she removed her size 52K bra, the itchy, red patches of skin beneath her breasts burning and smarting. “Another rash,” she sighed, rubbing the indentation marks where her bra straps constantly dug into her shoulders. “It feels like I’m carrying a five-pound sack of potatoes around my neck all the time,” Jackie despaired. “I can’t go on like this for much longer.”
The Harm to Her Health
“For over 20 years, my breasts had been negatively impacting my health and leaving me sidelined from life,” says Jackie. “I endured chronic back and neck pain and rashes so excruciating, sometimes I resorted to prescription pain meds. But they failed to help, and even two courses of physical therapy didn’t stop the constant ache.
“The weight of my breasts left me slumped over my desk at work. With poor posture and a shattered self-image, my confidence suffered, too. And it was always awkward meeting new folks — my breasts greeted them before I had a chance to, their eyes automatically focusing on them instead of my face.
“Years before, I had consulted with my doctor about the possibility of breast-reduction surgery, but I was told I needed to lose over 100 pounds to be cleared for the procedure. At 370 pounds (my highest weight at the time), it felt insurmountable. I felt defeated and began battling depression, hypertension, and sleep apnea.
“But in 2018, after working diligently with an endocrinologist, I lost 65 pounds. And within eight months, I was off my CPAP and blood-pressure meds. Next, I opted for bariatric surgery to shed an additional 65 pounds. In the end, I lost 130 pounds, which brought my bra size down to a 44J.
“Even though the next two years brought challenges that threatened to derail my progress—including my father’s death, my divorce, and the loss of my job of 33 years due to the pandemic — my faith kept me motivated to attain one of my primary goals: breast-reduction surgery. And when I was finally cleared for the procedure in August of 2021, I knew my journey to a brand-new me was in full swing.”
Breast Reduction Surgery: A Weight Lifted
“Immediately, I narrowed my search to two experienced and board-certified surgeons and provided documentation to my insurance company to show that the other treatments I’d tried were unsuccessful. After two weeks, my surgery was deemed medically necessary and approved by insurance. Though I felt some anxiety about my procedure, my excitement far outweighed any doubts. After taking measurements and discussing what I envisioned for life after surgery, my surgeon determined my new cup size would be a D.
“The surgery took three hours, during which my doctor administered general anesthesia, then removed five pounds of breast tissue and lifted and shaped my breasts. I was even able to go home the same day! My doctor said my full recovery time would be four to six weeks, but I felt fantastic sooner than that, with only an occasional ache or sharp pain. And when one friend who visited remarked that I looked younger with smaller breasts, I couldn’t help but smile.
“I am thrilled to say that since my procedure, I’m finally free from neck and lower-back pain and bothersome rashes. A literal weight has been lifted off my shoulders — no more five-pound sack of potatoes for me! I even purchased two new bras, both size 42D, which fit perfectly. Breast-reduction surgery was an important part of my journey to health, and I feel better than ever!”
Why will insurance cover breast reduction?
When large breasts cause physical symptoms, such as skin infections and chronic neck, back, or shoulder pain, breast-reduction surgery may be considered medically necessary, says board-certified plastic surgeon Stafford Broumand, MD. That means that unlike other “cosmetic” procedures, it can be covered by health insurance.
The key to getting it covered? “Patients must see doctors or specialists — like a physical therapist, chiropractor, or dermatologist — for three to six months to try to treat any problems that stem from large breasts,” he explains. “There needs to be documentation that the large breasts are causing medical issues that other treatments can’t resolve.”
If large breasts are impacting your health, Dr. Broumand advises requesting coverage criteria in writing from your insurance carrier, then starting a conversation with your primary care physician to plan your next steps.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.