Gender-affirming breast removal (mastectomy) can greatly enhance a patients' mental well-being, a new study finds.
Gender-affirming mastectomy is the most common type of gender-confirming surgery, but there's "not a lot of information out there about how exactly these types of surgeries help people," said study co-author Dr. Megan Lane. She is a plastic surgery resident at Michigan Medicine -- University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
"We're very thankful to have patients who were willing to do this study and follow-up with us. The results are relatively dramatic," Lane added in a university news release.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 70 transgender patients before and six months after they underwent the procedure to have a more masculine appearance.
After the surgery, the patients had improved mental health, higher self-confidence in social situations, improved body image and were more satisfied with their appearance, the findings showed.
Lane noted that there "are very few survey studies where you're going to find a 50-point improvement on a 100-point scale. We found this on multiple instruments. We knew this would improve most, if not every single domain, but we were surprised by how much these measurements changed."
Lane said that "for many people, the day they get their operation is life-changing."
However, gender-affirming surgery is not available to many Americans due to wide differences in state laws and insurance coverage.
This study could influence policy makers and insurers by showing that gender-affirming surgery isn't just about changing appearance, it's about improving other aspects of health in people with what's known as gender dysphoria, according to Lane.
"I hope work like this will strengthen the argument that this is health care," she said. "These are not cosmetic procedures. That's the main argument for not covering it."
The study was published recently in the journal Annals of Surgery.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has more on gender-confirming surgeries.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine -- University of Michigan, news release, Oct. 12, 2021