Elective cosmetic surgeries
include nose jobs, face lifts, liposuction, the use of implants
in cheeks, buttocks, breasts, and so on. People undergo cosmetic
surgery to reconstruct their looks after accidents, illness,
fire, in which cases it may not be elective. But if they do
it simply because they aren’t happy with the way they
look, they have a choice. TV shows such as Extreme Makeover
and The Swan are powerful advertisers for the cosmetic surgery
industry. They show the extreme results and happy endings for
the ugly ducklings, but they do not show or tell the whole
On TV, patients are put into a light sleep during the surgery.
This is presented as a better alternative to the more dangerous
and expensive narcosis. But light sleep also means that the patient
is likely to wake up during surgery. For some people this can
be a traumatic experience, especially when they have not been
warned first that it might happen. Anna (not her real name),
a young HPU student, was 17 when she had breast reconstruction
surgery. She woke up during surgery; something she did not know
was possible. “I didn’t feel pain, but I did feel
him poking around in there, working on me.” Anna said it
was creepy at the time, but she hasn’t thought much about
The TV shows don’t prepare future patients for how many
doctors are more technicians than professionals. Technicians
may not treat the patient as a person with feelings. “Anna” experienced
medical insensitiveness when she was first examined by a doctor
for her breast operation. “He said he wanted to take out
the stuff that wasn’t good, triple the size of my breasts,
and then sow them up like a tobacco pouch.” Anna eventually
found another doctor who was willing to perform the surgery without
enlarging her breasts.
If the surgery is a breast enlargement, or any other surgery
that includes the use of implants, one should also know that
the implants are foreign objects that the body may recognize.
To shield itself, the body will start enclosing the implants
in scar tissue. The scar tissue can make breasts hard, even stone
hard, after some time. This is why enhanced breasts are rumored
to be hard and feel unnatural.
Surgery also involves surface scaring. Scarring varies from
person to person, and also depends on what kind of cut the
to make in order insert the implants. For breast implants the
procedure that causes the least scarring is when the doctor makes
a small incision under the breast, and inserts the implants from
there. It is also common to make an incision from the nipple
area and down. Both techniques will get the job done, but the
patient may not be equally happy with the scars left.
No matter what incision, or type of surgery, remember that
the skin on a scar is new skin, and needs to be kept out
of the sun.
New skin burns easy, as it is not used to sun, and burning will
make the scar more visible.
Scarring is a minor surgical risk. Worse things can happen,
even with the best doctors money can buy. Remember the case
J. Howard Marshall II, who married the now infamous Anna Nicole
Smith? Before Smith, he suddenly found himself single at 86 when
his wife, an ex-stripper in her mid-40s, died on the operating
table during a breast enhancement surgery. This was accidental,
which reminds us that even if you can afford the best doctors,
accidents can still happen.
What are worse than accidents are the occasional frauds. There
have been several cases where doctors with no surgical background,
and even people with no medical
background, have set up practices and operated on people.
This fall, Denmark aired its own version of the American TV
series Extreme Makeover. The show had a doctor perform both
facial and breast surgery. He was, in reality,
a dermatologist with no surgical background. It is unclear whether the TV channel
knew about this before the scandal reached the front pages.
Breast enhancement is the most popular form of elective cosmetic
surgery. Brazil ran out of silicone implants in the run up
for the 2003 carnival season. Brazil
may be in a class of its own though: In 2001, its representative in the Miss
Universe Pageant had been through 19 cosmetic surgeries before, at 22, she became
Brazil’s hope in the pageant.
Silicone implants are still popular; even though it is known
that about half of them will start leaking, or simply burst,
within seven to 10 years. After
20 years, 95 percent will break.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a study
in 2000 reporting that silicone leaked more often than commonly
believed: 70 percent of the women
studied experienced one or more cases of leakage in 12-year-old implants. Two
years later, a Canadian study showed that women with implants were hospitalized
four times as often as women without implants. They also went to heart specialists,
chiropractors, and other specialists more frequently.
The European Union (EU) issued a warning against silicon implants
in 2003. It wanted to ban breast implants for minors, and
called for more accessible information
about the health risks of these surgeries.
So far France is the only EU country that has banned silicone
implants. Canada banned it in 1992, and the United States
has restricted the use of silicone.
This means that silicone is only permitted if the doctor finds medical reasons
for using it.
Countless women have filed lawsuits against silicone implant
manufacturers and the doctors who perform such surgeries.
The leaking silicone is said to cause
serious illnesses like chronic autoimmune diseases, where the immune defense
destroys the body’s own cells.
No doubt implants and other types of cosmetic surgery have
helped a lot of people. One never knows who will be the lucky
one who doesn’t experience any serious
side effects, and it’s up to each person to make his or her own choice.
But make an informed educated decision, because your health is at stake.