THEY come in many shapes and sizes.
Some women dream of going bigger while others just want to take a weight off their chest.
If you ask the one in two Brits that have boobs whether they are happy, chances are they will want what they don’t have.
But for women living at one extreme end of the spectrum, that longing is a desperate one fuelled by a crippling but often silent pain.
And it’s a pain made worse by the fact many women with larger breasts feel ignored and abandoned — their concerns not taken seriously.
Michelle Stimpson, a shop supervisor, wears a 38L bra to support her boobs, which weigh 2st.
The 35-year-old, from Birmingham, tells Fab Daily: “I’ve cried to my doctor many times. I’m in pain and hate the attention my boobs give me.
"I can’t walk far before I need to rest because my back hurts, I can’t do my shoelaces up and I can’t run for the bus when late.
“I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety which was triggered by this and I’m on antidepressants.”
Natalie Joseph’s 34K breasts weigh nearly a stone and she understands all too well what Michelle is going through.
The 43-year-old, from Marylebone, London, says: “Having large breasts comes with back struggles, and scarring and dents from bras.
“I suffer with tension in my upper back and shoulders and have had deep tissue massage and chiropractic treatments.”
Yet, despite the agonising pain they face every day, both claim they have been turned away by the NHS after being told they are not eligible for a breast reduction operation.
And they are not alone — experts fear their cases could be just the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety which was triggered by this and I’m on antidepressants.
Google “breast reduction surgery” and you will be presented with almost 170million results, and plastic surgeons say demand is on the rise.
Mr Naveen Cavale, who is a consultant reconstructive and plastic surgeon at Real Plastic Surgery, has performed countless breast reductions, both for the NHS and in private operations.
He tells Fab Daily: “The number of breast reductions I perform has seen a marked increase over the past 12 months.
"The majority of women I see who are interested in the surgery have lived with large breasts for a long time and it’s affected most areas of their life.”
Melinda Cotton, a registered osteopath at Fulham Osteopaths, says: “This is a silent epidemic, with more and more women suffering from mid-back and neck pain from having large boobs.
“Having a large chest is like weightlifting, but all the time. We lift with our neck, back and shoulder muscles.”
The NHS does not record how many patients are turned away but surgeons say more needs to be done.
Statistics reveal more people than ever are undergoing the surgery, with 4,594 operations completed last year, compared to 3,686 in 2013, according to NHS Digital.
The availability of breast reduction surgery on the NHS varies, depending on the eligibility criteria decided by your local clinical commissioning group (CCG).
In a postcode lottery, some CCGs do not fund breast reduction surgery at all, and others fund it selectively if you fulfil certain criteria, according to the NHS website.
Generally, patients might be considered for breast reduction on the NHS if they have serious problems caused by having very large breasts. These include backache, shoulder or neck pain, skin irritation, rashes and skin infections under the breasts, grooves on the shoulders from bra straps, and psychological distress.
Many women, including Michelle, who is 5ft 6in and has a BMI of 32, are refused because their BMI is too high. The NHS stipulates it must be between 20 and 27.
But when a person’s body is so out of proportion, experts have argued it is not that simple. Muscle is more dense than fat, so can leave people who work out regularly with a BMI that classes them as obese, despite the fact they are fit and healthy.
Mr Cavale says: “There are a lot of women whose breasts contribute a significant amount to their excess weight.
“The rest of their body could very well be within normal weight for their height and size.
“In such cases, reducing the breast weight will allow them to reduce to a more normal weight, body mass index and allow these women to exercise more.”
Michelle has tried physiotherapy, acupuncture and steroid injections in her back, and tries to avoid taking too many painkillers. Yet her pain persists and still she has been told “no”.
She says: “My GP says I can’t have a breast reduction until I lose 4st. I currently weigh 15st 7lbs and I’ve been told to get my BMI down.”
Michelle, who is a single parent to two-year-old son River, believes that having the operation will help her to drop six dress sizes.
She says: “I believe my weight has a lot to do with my boobs. They make me a dress size 20. By the age of nine I was a C cup and now I have gone all the way up to an L cup. I’ve been bullied for my boobs since I was nine — the girls were mean but boys were worse.”
Singer Natalie has to have regular massage and treatments to manage her pain. She says: “It helps to stretch, otherwise I start to slouch forward and gather more tension in my upper body.”
Fed up, Natalie channelled her experience to try to help others, launching her own lingerie line to offer suitable bras to women with bigger busts.
She says: “I made it my mission to create bras that are comfortable, supportive and pretty for women with larger breasts.”
In the UK, breast reduction surgery costs the NHS around £6,500 a time, plus the cost of consultations and follow-up care.
GoFundMe surgery has changed my life
FOR women repeatedly told “no” by the NHS, often the only option is to resort to paying for breast reduction surgery privately.
One of those women is Vicky Rog, 19, who told The Sun last year that she had been refused surgery despite having one of the naturally biggest busts for her tiny 5ft 4in frame.
The teen, who was nicknamed “Big Boob Vicky” on account of her 34I chest, said they weighed nearly 2st, causing her painful sores where they ripped her skin.
Wearing a bra for longer than a few hours proved agonising. Desperate for help, Vicky set up a GoFundMe page to raise £5,000 to cover the cost of the operation.
After generous donations Vicky went under the knife in November.
The size 8 administrator from Bushey, Herts, posted an update thanking those who helped her, saying she is “over the moon” with the life-changing results.
But in the long-term, Mr Cavale says offering women the surgery could actually save the health service money.
The NHS spends around £16billion a year on drugs, of which about £9billion arises from GPs prescribing and £7billion from hospital treatment — of which about half is directly reimbursed by NHS England’s specialised services budget. The NHS drugs bill grew by more than seven per cent last year.
Women suffering from pain caused by not having breast reductions are included in this figure.
The standard prescription cost in England is £9.15 per item, while a standard osteopath appointment can cost the NHS around £50.
Mr Cavale wants the procedure to be more widely available on the NHS.
He says: “It is entirely reasonable to argue breast reduction enables women to get healthier, making them less likely to develop other conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.”
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