Cosmetic surgery carries multiple risks
By John W. Kennedy and Jennifer McClure
The glorification of plastic surgery on TV programs such as
Fox’s The Swan, ABC’s Extreme Makeover, MTV’s I Want a Famous Face and My Super
Sweet 16, and E! Entertainment’s Dr. 90210 has many people — including
minors — lining up to get a nip and tuck, lift or augmentation of one
kind or another.
Last year, for the first time, breast augmentation became
the most common cosmetic procedure for women, with 383,885 operations according
to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. That represents a 279
percent jump from the 101,176 surgeries performed in 1997.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports 9,104 teens
had cosmetic breast augmentations in 2006, a 12 percent hike from the year
before. The reasons teens go under the knife vary from person to person, but
some undoubtedly do it to be a part of the in-crowd among their peers. This
worries some experts.
drives women into getting plastic surgery is the false premise ‘if I just alter
this part of my body that I’m convinced is making me unhappy, then I will find
contentment and finally be accepted,’” says Michelle Graham, 36, author of
Wanting to Be Her: Body Image Secrets Victoria Won’t Tell You. “It doesn’t deal
with the heart issue that caused the insecurity in the first place.”
Therapist Linda Mintle, 52, author of Making Peace with Your
Thighs and resident health expert on ABC Family’s Living the Life, agrees
anxieties aren’t automatically resolved by paying for a bigger bust.
“I’ve heard a lot of teens say getting the procedure didn’t
cure their unhappiness,” she says.
But TV reality
and talk shows rarely discuss the painful recovery period and long-range health
risks associated with breast augmentation surgery.
Breast implants for a patient of any age can hinder
breast-feeding and they make detection of breast cancer more difficult.
Although mammography can be performed in ways to minimize implant interference,
some 55 percent of breast tumors will be obscured.
Half a dozen studies show those with implants are twice as
likely to commit suicide as those who haven’t had an operation. In addition,
implants can eventually shift or break open and need to be removed or replaced.
Women with implants have complained of a variety of
cognitive problems, including memory loss and difficulty concentrating. FDA
analysis of industry data supports these concerns, but the connection with
breast implants has not been adequately researched.
One of the immediate reasons teenage girls should not have
the surgery is that breasts don’t fully develop until around age 25. Despite
the risks, some parents believe they are sparing their daughter the pain of
rejection by agreeing to requests to alter her appearance.
But doing so, warns Graham, can send a message to girls that
their bodies aren’t good enough. That is one reason, says Mintle, that mothers
must be careful what they say about their own bodies in front of the
are satisfied with their bodies raise girls who are satisfied with their own
bodies,” says Mintle. “Mothers shouldn’t project angst onto their daughters.”
For Renee Bledsoe, her decision to have breast augmentation
surgery began to foment early in her teen life when two older sisters made
remarks about her “pancake chest.”
As an adult, Bledsoe kept in shape by eating right and
working out regularly in a fitness club. Even so, she didn’t feel as though she
measured up to society’s perception of beauty.
“What I saw in the gym — my body was not that,” says
Bledsoe, of Austin, Texas. “Everything had to be perfect. I felt like I was
So three years ago, at age 35, Bledsoe underwent plastic
After the operation, Bledsoe didn’t sense perfection.
Earlier this year, as she led a class at her church based on Graham’s book
Wanting to Be Her, she began to question the deeper issues behind her decision.
“Why didn’t I understand God loves me just the way He made
me?” Bledsoe asks.
Admonitions such as “Thou shall not have a nose job” don’t
exist in Scripture. But Graham says biblical principles are involved when it’s
a matter of cosmetic surgery, which is not intended to include medically
“God made our bodies precisely,” Graham says. “Is it really
wise to use God’s money to surgically change them unnecessarily?”
In overcoming insecurities, Bledsoe says a biblical
perspective is vital.
“You have to understand you are wonderfully made,” she says.
“I now realize it’s not all about me. My focus was on being perfect — it
was about me, my body, everything about me had to be perfect.
“The more I stay in the Word the more I understand that I am
who Christ wants me to be.”
JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor and JENNIFER McCLURE is
assistant editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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