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Ask the Experts - the pros and cons of breast augmentation

A plastic surgeon explains to Lisa Salmon how parents of teenage girls can discuss the pros and cons of breast augmentation

Q. My 17-year-old daughter is obsessed with having her breasts surgically enlarged and won't accept she's too young for this type of operation. What can we do to help make her happier with her natural shape and stop her wanting surgery?

A. Naveen Cavale, a consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon at King's College Hospital, London and the founder of Real Plastic Surgery, says: "When I see women requesting a breast enlargement, I often hear they've been thinking about this from a very young age - as young as 13 sometimes.

"I do occasionally get asked to see teenagers who are requesting a breast enlargement in my clinic and often without a parent. Without a doubt your daughter is too young for surgery and I don't know of any UK surgeon who would operate for cosmetic reasons at this age. I'd discourage surgery until about the age of 22, when they've started to settle into adulthood, and when the breasts have stopped growing.

"But these discussions are often not easy to have with a teenager, especially because the reasons why they've turned up are compelling for them. Often they include peer pressure, intimacy with a partner and self-esteem issues, and they may not be that comfortable discussing them with a parent.

"My advice, rather than trying to outright discourage your daughter from surgery, is to have an open discussion about it. Keep her on-side. She will be so much better off with your support - remember, all operations have the potential for complications, and not everyone out there who's offering advice may have her best interests at heart.

"When I do see young adults, for example the 18-22-year-olds requesting a breast enlargement, I am always happiest when they turn up with a parent (typically mum). They have often discussed things lots beforehand and this is a healthy sign. They can also discuss things again after having seen me. I almost always ask them to both return to see me for a second time.

"I've also found those who wait and then proceed with surgery are usually happier with the results, perhaps because they better understand and appreciate the realities of what can be achieved. Realistic expectations are very important before surgery.

"Your daughter will almost certainly be better off waiting until she is a little older."

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