Perhaps no other part of the body affects a woman's self-image more than her breasts. If you've ever wished you had fuller, shapelier breasts, you're not alone. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 291,000 women chose to have breast implants, or breast augmentation, in 2005.
What can breast augmentation do for you?
Breast augmentation surgery can do more than simply enlarge small breasts. Implants can help balance breasts that are unequal in shape or size, and they can add firmness to breasts that have lost volume. Breast augmentation can also help bring your upper body into better proportion with your lower body.
Research has shown that breast augmentation has psychological benefits for many women, including increased self-esteem and pride in their appearance.
Are you a good candidate for breast implants?
The best candidates for breast augmentation surgery are healthy women with realistic expectations. Your breast health is also very important. You should consider breast augmentation only if you are free of breast cancer or other serious breast disease.
For best results, you should have adequate breast tissue and skin to cover an implant, and maintain a stable weight.
When is breast augmentation not recommended?
If you are pregnant or nursing - or planning to become pregnant soon - you should wait until after giving birth to have breast augmentation. Likewise, if you plan to lose a significant amount of weight, it's advisable to do that before having implant surgery.
If you have any serious health conditions, your surgeon may ask that you get clearance for surgery from your primary care physician.
Is age a factor?
Yes. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that breast implant surgery not be performed on any woman under age 18. And the FDA recently approved silicone gel breast implants only for women age 22 and older.
What's the first step?
If you are considering breast augmentation, your first step is to find a reputable plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). To confirm whether a plastic surgeon is ABPS-certified, visit www.abplsurg.org .
A consultation will help answer your questions
Your next step is to meet and evaluate the surgeons you are considering. Contact the doctor's office for more information and to schedule a consultation appointment. The surgeon will answer your questions and evaluate you as a candidate for implant surgery.
He or she will explain your options, such as implant size and type (silicone gel or saline), the placement of the incisions and whether the implant will be placed above or below the muscle of the chest wall. The surgeon will also show you before and after photos of his or her breast augmentation patients.
Making an informed decision will help you get the results you want from breast augmentation surgery.
Allan J. Parungao, MD, is an Oak Park, Illinois plastic surgeon board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He is author of A Woman's Guide to Cosmetic Breast Surgery and Body Contouring (Addicus Books, 2006). Visit Dr. Parungao's web site at http://www.parungao.com or call his office at 708.660.3223.