The Rising Trend of Breast Implants in America

BBC Persian: April 3, 2013

With 330,631 breast augmentation procedures performed in the United States in 2012 alone, America is now officially the global leader in this branch of cosmetic surgery and breast implants are now the second most popular plastic surgery in the world.

Why have breast implants become so popular? In part, this may be due to the growing consumer confidence with advancements in implant technology and surgical procedure:

Dr. Byron D. Poindexter, board-certified plastic surgeon with The Austin-Weston Centre for Cosmetic Surgery in Reston, VA:

“We’re able to go through what’s relatively small incision down here probably about 4 centimetres at this point and you can squeeze this implant completely through with hardly any effort at all and it just comes out on the other side.”

But despite these innovations, breast augmentation remains a very intrusive and potentially risky operation. Some critics argue that that many patients are oblivious about these potential risks:

Florence Williams, author of BREASTS: A Natural and Unnatural History:

“I think the plastic surgery industry has been masterful at marketing implants and augmentation as very benign procedures It sort of in line with other procedures women get Botox, hair colouring, this is marketed as yet another way improve you image. I don’t think there is an understanding that these are major surgical procedures and that they have the inherent risks of other procedures People for example don’t realize that 1 in 6 women who get implant actually lose sensation in their nipples they also don’t understand that 1 in 5 women need a re operation because of complications within 3 years of their implants.”

Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weight loss can also take a toll on breasts, leaving them deflated and without volume. Breast implants can bring back that lost volume, but can it make a patient feel better inside about herself and her body image?

Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D. President, National Research Centre for Women & Families Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund:

“Self-esteem is not like having a bad hair day and a good hair day. People feel better about themselves on a good hair day than a bad hair day, but it doesn’t change their self-esteem; it doesn’t change how they really feel about themselves. And so the objective studies that have been done of cosmetic surgery–and this is true for breast implants and other surgeries–show that usually men and women who have cosmetic surgery feel better about the body part that was fixed. If their nose was changed they like their nose better, if their ears don’t stick out they like their ears better. If their breasts are larger they might feel sexier and think their breasts look nicer but it doesn’t actually change that sort of basic feeling of who they are.”

But what about cultural norms? For once, the fashion magazines aren’t to blame—if anything, they favour the flat-chested to concave look. Many major movie stars are also kinda small in the chest— so what is driving the demand?

Florence Williams:

“I think there’s no question that we live in a breast obsessed culture and in some areas that’s become less pronounced for example major movie stars but I think pornography is actually a major factor certainly there’s more availability of pornographic images now than ever before. I think a lot of young people grow up learning about the human body from the Internet this is really different. there are thousands of images of naked breast that boys and girls will see by the time they reach adulthood and so many of those breasts are not real, they’re either  digitally enhanced or surgically enhanced. So I think there’s this incredible expectation on women themselves and also from men to look a certain way.”

Mental health specialists believe anyone considering aesthetic procedure should make sure that they are doing so for the right reasons. If they are looking for a procedure because they feel society wants them to look a certain way or someone is pressuring them to have it done – it is unlikely that the operation will improve their quality of life. If however, they want to do it for themselves to feel younger when they look in the mirror, and if they have weighed in all the risks involved, then they will have a much more positive outcome — both mentally and physically.

 To view the segment (in Farsi) click here.