Growing trend for college students to go ‘under the knife,’ but risks involved
By Kara Pound
Photo by Stephanie Gibson
PHOTO CAPTION: Local cosmetic surgeon Dr. James J. McGuire holds one of the instruments used to slice under the skin for surgical procedures such as liposuction.
With media influence and so much negative body image, a growing number of college students are choosing to go “under the knife” for plastic surgery.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), cosmetic procedures have increased 222 percent since 1997. Out of the millions of procedures done in 2005, 24 percent were performed on 19 to 34 year olds.
Students in North Florida are no exception. From Flagler College to Florida State University, students are having procedures varying from breast augmentation to rhinoplasty. According to the ASAPS, 91 percent of surgeries are performed on women.
Joanna Young is a 22-year-old junior at Florida State University student majoring in fashion merchandising, and she underwent breast augmentation at 19. She said that she had wanted them for years and saved up the $4,250 from high school graduation presents and working.
Young found the experience not too painful. “When I woke up from surgery it was like I had just taken a nap and awoke to bigger boobs,” Young said.
She does encounter problems with strangers who are more than willing to comment on her breasts. “I have to put up with a lot of rude comments from people, such as a middle-aged couple in Miami who walked by me and exclaimed loudly, ‘Happy Graduation,’ as if that was my present from my parents,” Young said.
But there are risks to younger patients getting plastic surgery. In addition to serious medical risks associated with serious surgical procedures like these, according to the Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Resource Web site (www.abcpsr.com) — a site produced by plastic surgeons and a medical marketing company — undergoing a procedure like breast augmentation at such an early age also brings risks in how a young woman’s body will continue to change as her body matures.
The same site said that many of the young patients are not done growing, and putting on even a little weight can affect the size of their breasts.
The dangers of cosmetic surgery with this group of patients is that in a couple years the young patient may be dissatisfied with her physical appearance after her body has fully matured.
Jennifer (name changed for privacy reasons) is a junior psychology major at Flagler College who had breast augmentation at 19. She said she always felt like a late bloomer, so when she had a good paying job she decided to go ahead with the surgery.
“I was fairly pleased with the outcome, but not ecstatic,” said student Katie Slawson
The procedure cost her $3,500 which she charged on her credit card and paid off in a year and a half. Jennifer’s parents did not help her pay for the surgery, but they took care of her before and after. She went from a size 34B to a size 34D. “I didn’t want anything huge. I just wanted them to match my body,” she said.
Dr. James J. McGuire, a member of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, performs surgeries in his office in St. Augustine. He said that in the 18 to 25 year old range, almost all of his patients want liposuction or breast implants.
Many of his patients are from FSU or The University of Florida who are home during summer break to have their surgery. “Usually when they’re in the midst of their classes, they don’t have time to have something done,” he said.
With shows like “Dr. 90210,” “Extreme Makeover” and “I Want a Famous Face,” it could be said that reality TV shows might cause an increase in plastic surgery.
But McGuire disagrees. “I don’t think the reality shows have affected my practice greatly. I haven’t had anybody come in and say that they want the complete makeover and that’s what most of those shows are,” McGuire said. He continues to say that he thinks the shows have relaxed the stigma associated with plastic surgery.
“People are getting over the concept that if you don’t feel right about the way you look then you should have a little bit stronger character and just say my nose is a sign of character. You may have strong character, but you may want to change your nose,” McGuire said.
In a survey of 38 Flagler College students, 10 male and 28 female, students were asked if they would have plastic surgery. Fifteen said they would (six male and nine female), 22 said they wouldn’t (four male and 18 female) and one was undecided (female).
The fifteen that said they would have surgeries ranging from liposuction to jaw contour to cheek bone implants. The 22 gave reasons for not having surgery included: “It scares me,” “I don’t believe the health risks are worth it,” “Plastic surgery allows society to put us in a box” and “I’m happy the way I was made.”
Not all plastic surgery is cosmetic. Some college students are having reconstructive surgery for medical reasons.
Blanche Joslin, a junior and communication major at Flagler, had a breast reduction when she was 17.
She was a size G and had to have bras made especially for her. This led to medical problems which prompted her to have the breast reduction. “After getting the surgery, it took a year for me to get used to people looking me in the eyes,” Joslin said.
Katie Slawson, a senior and graphic design major, had corrective surgery on her nose when she was 16. She had a birth defect that left her with uneven tendons, a deviated septum, and no cartilage in her nose.
Slawson couldn’t breathe through her nose until the surgery. “I was fairly pleased with the outcome, but not ecstatic,” she said.
Slawson remembers that the pain was not horrible and she had little bruising.