After 20 years of nagging neck and back pain, burning rashes and low self-esteem for her K-sized breasts, Jackie Caine finally decided to have reduction surgery. Discover her story – learn what she went through and how her life-changing decision restored her health, confidence and zest for life!
“Sorry we canceled lunch again,” Jackie Caine wrote to her friend after she returned home from another round of ineffective cortisone shots up her spine. The 55-year-old business coach from Delaware winced in pain as she removed her 52K bra, which caused the itchy red patches of skin beneath her breasts to sting and sore. “Another rash,” she sighed, rubbing the indentations where her bra straps kept digging into her shoulders. “It feels like I’ve got a five-pound sack of potatoes around my neck all the time,” Jackie exasperated. “I can’t go on like this much longer.”
The damage to their health
“For over 20 years, my breasts have negatively impacted my health and shut me out of life,” says Jackie. “I suffered from chronic back and neck pain and rashes that were so excruciating that I sometimes resorted to prescription painkillers. But they didn’t help, and even two courses of physical therapy couldn’t relieve the constant pain.
“The weight of my breasts made me slump over my desk at work. With poor posture and a shattered self-image, my confidence suffered as well. And it was always awkward meeting new people—my boobs greeted them before I had a chance, and their eyes automatically shifted to them instead of my face.
“Years before, I had consulted with my doctor about the possibility of a breast reduction, but was told I would need to lose over 100 pounds to be eligible for the procedure. At 370 pounds (my highest weight at the time) it felt insurmountable. I felt defeated and started battling depression, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.
“But in 2018, after diligently working with an endocrinologist, I lost 65 pounds. And within eight months I was off CPAP and blood pressure meds. Next, I decided to have bariatric surgery to lose another 65 pounds. I ended up losing 130 pounds which reduced my bra size to 44J.
“Even though the next two years presented challenges that threatened to jeopardize my progress—including the death of my father, my divorce, and losing my job after 33 years due to the pandemic—my faith kept me motivated to achieve one of my primary goals : breast reduction. And when I was finally cleared for the procedure in August 2021, I knew my journey to a brand new me was well underway.”
Breast Reduction Surgery: A weight lifted
“I immediately narrowed my search to two experienced and board-certified surgeons and submitted documentation to my insurance company showing that the other treatments I had tried were unsuccessful. After two weeks, my operation was considered medically necessary and approved by the health insurance company. Although I was a bit apprehensive about my procedure, my excitement far outweighed any doubts. After taking my measurements and discussing what I wanted for life after the surgery, my surgeon determined that my new cup size would be 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 used to feel fantastic with only the occasional ache or stabbing pain. And when a friend visiting me remarked that I look younger with smaller breasts, I had to smile.
“I am pleased to say that I am finally free of neck and lower back pain and bothersome skin rashes since my procedure. A literal load was lifted from my shoulders – no more five pound sacks of potatoes for me! I even bought two new bras, both size 42D, which fit perfectly. The breast reduction was an important part of my health journey and I feel better than ever!”
Why does health insurance cover a 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. This means that, unlike other “cosmetic” procedures, it can be covered by health insurance.
The key to covering it? “Patients need to 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. “It needs to be documented that the large breasts cause medical problems that other treatments cannot solve.”
If large breasts are affecting your health, Dr. Broumand to request the coverage criteria in writing from your insurance carrier and then start a conversation with your GP to plan your next steps.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.