Cutting edge or dead end?
The growth of the cosmetic surgery industry may be as much to do with modern surgical techniques as society’s obsession with looks and appearances.
What is undeniable is that more and more people – men and women – are prepared to go under the knife or take advantage of non-intrusive procedures to change their physical features and, presumably, enhance their psychological well-being as a result.
In the past, re-shaping the body may have been restricted to ‘a nose job’. Today, even men can have breast implants.
Breast augmentation accounts for an estimated 57 per cent of all plastic surgery. The company Transform, which has a clinic in Birmingham, estimates it carries out about 4,000 breast implants annually. The cost for a single treatment is about £4,000.
It has been estimated that 110,000 such procedures took place in Britain last year, an increase of more than 80 per cent on 1997.
Many women try to enhance their figures in some way, whether through dieting, exercise or careful selection of clothes.
What could possibly be wrong with a woman wanting to take pride in her femininity and gain confidence at the same time?
Yet surgery, although widely available for those whose budgets allow it, remains a divisive issue.
Photos of celebrities constantly circulate with a “did she, didn’t she?” headline (Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, etc) Both celebrity and true-life interviews about breast surgery are guaranteed to shift magazines rapidly off the shelves.
Cosmetic surgeons do not deny the potential physical risks – backache, risk of infection, scarring, loss of feeling in the breasts, inability to breast-feed, capsular contraction (where the skin hardens, causing a rippling effect on the skin).
Samantha Kiel, spokeswoman for Transform, said: “It’s still surgery at the end of the day, and there are always risk with any operations where anaesthetic is involved”.
The cosmetic surgery industry is not currently monitored by any central medical or governing body, though clinics will usually give a consultation to discuss the client’s physical and psychological suitability.
Patrick Joleys, spokesman for London-based Cosmetic Surgery Consultants Ltd, said many of his clients came to him after childbirth, wanting their bodies returned to their pre-pregnancy shape.
“They want a natural look, most women are worried that they might end up looking like Jordan. I wouldn’t personally recommend going above an E cup, although it depends on the person’s height and frame,” he said.
With the number of breast procedures continuing unabated, the phenomenon seems to be a bubble that’s not yet ready to burst.
Now read the arguments.
For: Glamour model must boost assets for career
Holly Maguire is a famous glamour model with the world at her feet, so you would have thought she would be satisfied with her appearance.
But the 26-year-old, from Essex, recently went under the surgeon’s knife to “improve” the main assets she possesses working in the tabloid industry – her breasts.
Ms Maguire (pictured) is not perturbed by the risks involved with surgery but she was concerned that her new breasts might look fake.
However, she had new asymmetrically-shaped, natural looking implants that have only recently been introduced in Britain after being launched in the US.
Spending £3,500 on an operation to boost her career, self-confidence and physical appearance was something that Ms Maguire was not afraid to do.
She said: “If you are not happy with something about yourself, you don’t have to put up with it.
“Loads of girls in my industry have had boob jobs. I don’t want dodgy round implants that look stuck on. When I found this new natural-looking implant, I was so excited. I felt I’d found a miracle cure.
“Although I was doing well, I wanted to move on to the next stage in my career and I knew that I’d get better jobs being a 32DD.”
The surgery was performed by Dr Shiva Singh, who has carried out more than 20,000 breast operations.
He said the subject may have been considered taboo up until recently, but now women believed breast enlargement was something to be celebrated.
He said: “I have seen women’s lives transformed. They may have been traumatised at school for having flat chests, or they may just feel ugly, but after the procedure they feel beautiful.”
Dr Singh began the operation by making a laser incision under each of Ms Maguire’s breasts. He then pulled them open and inserted the implants.
After ensuring the nipples were in the correct position, Dr Singh stitched her back up. The whole procedure took 45 minutes.
“Many people do not realise it is a major operation,” he said.
“It takes two weeks to recover and a further six weeks for the implants to bed in properly.”
Against: Bigger boobs cannot bolster poor self mage
Breast implants aren’t really about a woman’s figure or the size or shape of her breasts, argues Katherine Courts.
When a woman looks in the mirror and sees two breasts she’s not happy with, the image reflected back is nothing more than a representation of desperate emotional unhappiness.
Inflated breasts are built on inflated expectations, inflated promises and fragile self-esteem. Surgery can never build a person’s sense of self-worth and nor should it claim to.
Yet plastic surgery is aggressively marketed on its dubious ability to bring confidence and happiness to a woman’s life.
As BUPA’s internet catchphrase says: “It’s not about how other people see you, it’s how you see yourself.”
Any sense of fulfilment found through surgery is condemned to be short-lived and the owner of the new breasts will ultimately be left with little more than a few scars and the possibility of serious life-long physical problems.
When women want to change something in their life, the change should come from within. If surgery brought happiness, women wouldn’t return for repeat surgery.
Jane (not her real name) is an obvious example. After one suicide attempt and bullying at school, she decided to increase her breast to a frightening 32L. Yet she still admits she’s unhappy.
Shouldn’t a woman’s value, attractiveness and sexuality be built on their innate sense of worth as a human being and not on the size of their breasts?
Eating disorders are known to be an expression of emotional distress and the same parallel should be drawn with breast augmentation.
If young women in their 20s and 30s need breast implants to feel attractive (or make the most of their assets, it all amounts to the same thing), what are they going to need when their bodies hit middle age, old age or the menopause? And as fashions change, silicone breasts are likely to be as redundant as Kate Moss’s skeletal figure was at the end of the 1990s.
We should furthermore be asking serious ethical questions about the kind of society that demands such physical perfection.
Any inference that breast implants bring any kind of positive lasting change is nothing more than a cruel deception.
A happy person doesn’t ask for breast implants and an unhappy person’s confidence isn’t solved by surgery. The average breast augmentation costs several thousand pounds – money that would be better spent on counselling.