Teen plastic surgery remains controversial issue

HOUSTON We talked to a Houston plastic surgeon who works on teenage patients -- and asked one young woman how she feels nearly two years after making that life-changing decision.

Nineteen-year-old college student Tracy Karp has had breast implants for nearly two years. They were her high school graduation gift from her parents. She went from an AA to a C cup.

"I wasn't going to be growing anymore, and I was having a lot of difficulty finding clothes that fit properly," Karp said.

Houston surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose is the man who performed Karp's augmentation. He says her case was more than a self-esteem issue.

"It was almost a reconstructive case in the sense she just never developed any breast tissue at all," Dr. Rose said.

But Dr. Rose has operated on other teenage girls; he says youngest age he'll do breast implants is 18.

"There is sort of a zeal for plastic surgery in American culture," he said.

Plastic surgery on teens is controversial.

"Patients have all kinds of motivations," Dr. Rose said.

But Dr. Rose says plastic surgery is something to think about very seriously whether you're a teenager or older.

"Any plastic surgical procedure, you know, every cut of the scalpel is of course a permanent change," he said.

Breast augmentation surgery can impact a woman's ability to breastfeed when she becomes a mother; and even later, it means a different mammogram protocol since the implants can, in some cases, obscure lumps or tumors.

But there may be a lower risk of breast cancer for women with implants, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"One of the reasons being is that self examination is more easily performed because the breast tissue is pushed more forward to the skin," Dr. Rose said.

Breastfeeding and breast cancer may seem very far away to young teenage patients. Karp says her parents brought up some of those concerns, but she had made up her mind.

"My parents initially wanted me to wait until after I had children, but I knew it was something, no matter what, I was going to do way before I was at that point," she said.

And so far she has no regrets about doing it.

Dr. Rose says while the minimum age set by the American Society of plastic Surgeons for breast augmentation is 18, girls as young as 16 are considered old enough for nose jobs and liposuction.

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