For her 18th birthday, Mackenzie Langan asked for an unusual present: a breast reduction surgery. The petite high school senior (she's only 5 feet tall) traded in her 34-H bra size for a more comfortable 34-D; and her surgery was documented for an upcoming segment.
Langan's reasoning for the elective surgery? Constant back pain, chafing, and even bleeding caused by bra straps. Her breasts even prevented her from playing sports and affected her social life — "I think that the worst part about this for me is socially," Langen told Nightline. "Being known freshman year as 'the girl with the giant boobs,' having guys date me because I have boobs … And it gives me a lot of self-confidence issues because I feel like I can't trust people."
Langan is not the only teen turning to drastic measures — more and more adolescents are asking for plastic surgery to help ease their aching backs as well as get rid of any body image issues. In fact, the number of procedures has more than tripled from 1997 to 2013, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. In 2010, at least 4,600 breast reductions were performed on teenage patients.
So why the increase? Girls having bigger breasts earlier can be attributed to everything from or the obesity epidemic to increased hormones in the modern diet. Add in safer surgeries, less scarring, and better insurance coverage, and it's no wonder breast reduction surgeries are on the rise for high schoolers across the country.
Dr. Brian Labow of Boston Children's Hospital is an expert in adolescent breast surgeries and operated on Langan. He says that he sees patients as young as 12 (but the average age is closer to 18) who often suffer intense pain. "It's not just teen angst," Labow told Nightline. "[These patients] clearly don't have the same quality of life. It is a big deal."
"These are amongst, if not, the happiest patients that I could take care of," he added. "I would say 99.9% are ecstatic — it is a very high satisfaction rate for these patients."
Of course, breast reduction surgeries aren't without risk: scarring, loss of nipple sensitivity, and losing the ability to breastfeed are all counted as potential side effects. In rare cases, breasts can even grow back to their original size.
For Mackenzie Langan, however, her life has dramatically changed for the better. The senior, who recently went shopping for prom dresses, went down from a size 8 to a size 0. "I just feel like a completely new me, and it's great."