Is your younger teenage daughter struggling with low self-esteem because her breasts aren’t developing fast enough? Perhaps your older teenager is unhappy with small or asymmetrical breasts and fears they will never change. In today’s society, with so much peer pressure about looks and sexuality, and so many superficial rewards available to the ‘beautiful people’, it’s no surprise that teens are demanding breast augmentation surgery at younger and younger ages.
But experts warn that breast implants may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, since most teen issues with breast size and shape are resolved as the girl matures. And, whereas most adults choose plastic surgery to stand out among their peers, teenagers ask for these procedures because they want to fit in. It’s important to talk honestly with your teen to find out what they’re really thinking.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, cosmetic surgeons performed 3,841 breast augmentation procedures on teenagers in 2003, a 24% jump from 2002. The Society recommends the surgery for females 18 years of age and older and cautions that breast augmentation surgery for teens is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
• The surgery itself carries risk, especially from the anesthesia
• Additional surgery may be necessary within 5-10 years
• Some women experience breast pain or hardness and nipple numbness
• Breast implants do not last a lifetime
• Removal of the implants may cause dimpling, wrinkling or puckering of breast tissue
• Health insurance does not cover cosmetic procedures and may not cover corrective surgery post-implant.
• Breast implants may interfere with mammography
While breast augmentation may indeed be a viable option for some young women, it is crucial that a reputable cosmetic surgeon takes extra time to meet with and counsel the teenager and her parents. Breasts do continue to develop well into the woman’s early twenties, making it nearly impossible to determine whether the teenager really needs breast augmentation.
Making the best of it
After consulting with a qualified plastic surgeon, you may have decided plastic surgery is right for your teen. How can you benefit the most from the experience?
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons offers these tips for a rewarding outcome:
• The teenager must initiate the request. Parental support is important, but the teen’s own desire for surgical improvement must be something they truly want and have wanted consistently over a long period of time.
• The teenager must have realistic goals, appreciating the benefits and limitations of the surgery, and avoiding the fantasy that her whole life will magically change because of it.
• The teenager must demonstrate sufficient maturity. Breast augmentation surgery is painful and there are rules of recovery that must be strictly followed.
• Teens who are prone to riding the emotional roller coaster or who abuse drugs and alcohol or are being treated for clinical depression are poor candidates for surgery.
The most important part of choosing to go forward with cosmetic surgery is the surgeon you choose. He or she must be board-certified in plastic surgery and have hospital operating privileges despite the fact that most cosmetic procedures are done in the surgeon’s office.
It’s very important for teens and parents to discuss the procedure itself, the costs, the recovery period and whether insurance will cover any part of it. No matter how unhappy the teen may seem, plastic surgery is surgery, with all its inherent risks and complications, and is not something to be rushed into lightly.