Breast augmentation has become the most common plastic surgery procedure in the United States.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS),
329,396 breast augmentations were performed in 2006, an increase
of 55 percent since 2000 and more than 300 percent since the
According to medicinenet.com, augmentation of the breast is
the insertion of a silicone bag (prosthesis) under the breast
(sub-mammary) or under the breast and chest muscle (sub-pectoral).
Once inserted, the bag is filled with saline (salt water) or,
since the 2006 FDA approval, silicone gel. The prosthesis expands
the breast area to give a fuller breast (increased cup size),
provide better contour, and enhance cleavage.
This year, breast augmentations have already increased 13 percent
over last year, and silicone gel-filled implants have increased
Reasons why women may consider this procedure:
-They may have had breasts that have never matured.
-They may have lost breast volume from weight loss
-They may have had part of a breast removed due to cancer.
-They may lack self-esteem, or confidence.
The last motive is troubling. Plastic surgery might not be
the answer for women with emotional problems such as low self-esteem,
depression, and lack of confidence. In fact plastic surgery
may sometimes worsen the problem and may lead to suicide. In
the American Journal of Psychiatry July 2007, an article by
Drs. David B. Sarwer Gregory Brown, and Dwight Evans called “Cosmetic
Breast Augmentation and Suicide” stated that the suicide
rate of women who received cosmetic breast implants is approximately
twice the expected rate, based on estimates of the general
population. This suggests that plastic surgery may not be the
answer to all one’s problems.
The article lists some possible correlations between cosmetic
breast implants and suicide and examines the role of preoperative
personality characteristics and psychopathology, motivations
and expectations for surgery, and the impact of postoperative
Illustration by Jaime AhmedThe stereotypical breast augmentation patient is believed
to be a single Caucasian woman in her early to mid-20s who is interested in the
surgery as a way to facilitate the development of a romantic relationship.
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute reviewed the medical records of
13,488 women who received breast implants for cosmetic purposes. These reviews
suggest a different profile. The typical patient is most often Caucasian, but
she differs from this stereotype by being in her late 20s or early 30s, married,
with children. Furthermore, the range of patients included women from their late
teens to mid-40s of varying ethnic backgrounds and relationship status. And several
epidemiological studies found that women age 40 and older who undergo breast
augmentation appear to be at increased risk of suicide.
Studies in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that women who receive breast
implants differ from other women in a variety of unique characteristics. Women
who receive breast implants are more likely to have had more sexual partners,
report a greater use of oral contraceptives, are younger at their first pregnancy,
and have a history of terminated pregnancies compared to women who have not had
breast implants. They have also been found to be more frequent users of alcohol
and tobacco and have a higher divorce rate. These women have also been found
to have a below average body weight, leading to concern that some may be experiencing
eating disorders. Finally they have been found to report more frequent use of
psychotherapy than physically similar women not interested in breast augmentation,
and they have been found to have a history of more psychiatric hospitalizations
than other plastic surgery patients.
According to The National Women’s Health Information Center, psychological
problems are not always solved by surgery, and a woman who has the procedure
may still feel the same or worse, especially if she is suffering from body dysmorphic
disorder (BDD), which is another characteristic that appears to distinguish women
with breast implants.
BDD is a serious illness in which a person is preoccupied with minor or imaginary
physical flaws, usually of the skin, hair, and nose. A person with BDD who seeks
cosmetic surgery may never be happy with the outcome, even if the surgeries are
Some people with mild symptoms of BDD can function well, despite the stress they
feel. For others, the illness can become so serious that they may be unable to
work, socialize, or leave their homes. They worry that they look ugly, or that
people will laugh at them. Eventually this illness could lead to suicide.
According to Sarwer, et. al., between 3 and 15 percent of cosmetic surgery patients
have been found to have some form of the disorder. Retrospective studies of cosmetic
treatment use among persons with BDD found that more than 90 percent experienced
either no relief from their symptoms following these treatments, or an actual
worsening of their BDD symptoms. The study concluded that BDD contraindicates
Not all women who seek breast implants suffer from BDD, and many women who receive
them report improved quality of life, body image, and self-esteem as well as
increased marital and sexual satisfaction. According to Sarwer et. al., women’s
postoperative expectations are surgical, psychological, and social. Surgical
expectations include their specific concerns about what they will look like after
the operation. Psychological expectations include emotional satisfaction occur
after surgery. Social expectations include the potential social benefits of cosmetic
surgery. Many women think that implants will make them more attractive to current
or potential romantic partners. When these expectations are not met, they may
become despondent, depressed, and potentially suicidal.
Sarwer et. al. quote clinical reports that suggest that the majority of women
are satisfied after their breast augmentations and experience improvements in
body image. These benefits, however, may be tempered by the experience of a postoperative
complication. Up to 25 percent of women are reported to experience surgical or
implant-related complication. The most common complications are implant leakage
or rupture/deflation, capsular contracture, discomfort or pain, breast asymmetry,
scarring, loss of nipple sensation, and breast-feeding difficulties. The experience
of a complication is negatively related to postoperative satisfaction and to
less favorable changes in body image. The negative experience could cause depressed
mood, increased anxiety, and a decline in quality of life, which may lead to
One of the most famous cases of postoperative complications is that of actress
Tara Reid. She had pain and scarring that was so bad she turned to high-tech
oxygen treatments for healing in a hyperbaric chamber where gas is pumped in
to help her blemishes disappear and scarring heal (Hollywoodgossip.com).
According to HPU junior business major Holly Cabatbat, “A woman needs to
love herself regardless of her breast size.” She believes that a woman
who is satisfied with her own breasts would not have this surgery because she
wouldn’t feel the need too.
Women are aware of the risks of going through this procedure, but as freshman
international relations major Chelsie Kappius said, “If I were insecure
and had severe depression problems, I’d consider breast implants.”