Quick fix cosmetic ops are the Wild West of medicine, says DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR


The 59-year-old Strictly judge took her decision after learning that implants can make the detection of breast cancer harder

The 59-year-old Strictly judge took her decision after learning that implants can make the detection of breast cancer harder 

Shirley Ballas’s decision to have her breast implants removed after 17 years seems entirely sensible.

The 59-year-old Strictly judge took her decision after learning that implants can make the detection of breast cancer harder.

Ballas, who has previously suffered a cancer scare, learned there was a history of the disease in her family while taking part in the BBC1 ancestry show, Who Do You Think You Are? in 2018.

She said she had the implants originally to combat ‘chronic confidence issues’ and, given the opportunity, I’d love to ask her if she felt her confidence improved as a result.

Ballas’s dilemma is a reminder of the risks — in her case, low level — some people will take for the sake of their appearance. 

A report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) this week said that a staggering one in five cosmetic surgery clinics expose their patients to harm.

They identified clinics offering unsafe facelifts, nose jobs, breast enlargements and weight-loss surgery.

Many used poorly qualified staff and/or cut corners on safety and infection control in order to keep costs low.

The report exposes a horrifying truth that cosmetic surgery is still the Wild West of medicine.

Every NHS doctor will have seen patients who are victims of poor care in the private sector — and this is especially true of the cosmetic surgery industry, here and abroad.

And given that it is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, with cut-price packages widely available, so the number of problematic cases — and fatalities — has increased.

I saw it myself while working in breast surgery: several cases of botched implants, and horrendous infections after patients had opted for private treatment. When things went wrong, the NHS had to step in.

Often, the private companies offering these procedures do not have the skill, resources or facilities to fix the problems they create — nor do some want to bother with them. Tight profit margins do not allow for complications.

So why do people still take the risk? It’s only human to want a quick fix to our perceived problems. And cosmetic surgery and anti-ageing procedures appeal in particular because, on the whole, they offer instantaneous results at affordable prices.

I have nothing against people opting for such treatments if they have realistic expectations about what they want it to achieve.

Yes, cosmetic surgery can make us feel better about ourselves and more confident, with a positive impact on careers, relationships and sex lives. But it would be wrong to think it held the answer to every problem we face.

For some, it’s not surgical intervention they need to make them feel better about themselves, but psychological help. Any honest surgeon will tell you that some of the patients they see are there because of family, relationship or emotional difficulties — the kind of problem no operation or injection can ever alleviate.

If you’re having marital difficulties, a breast enlargement might make your husband pay you more attention, but it’s not going to fundamentally change the nature of your relationship.

For those with underlying emotional or psychological problems, studies show that undergoing cosmetic surgery, in the belief it will make them feel better about themselves, can actually make them feel worse.

Patients focus all their hope on a life-changing result that will erase their problems — but when reality hits and they are no better, despair can kick in.

Such problems need to be addressed through talking therapies, rather than surgery. And interestingly, people considering surgery but who undergo talking therapy to address their feelings of low self-esteem first, often decide surgery isn’t needed after all.

I wonder what Shirley Ballas, a hugely talented and attractive woman who exudes confidence, would tell her younger self now?

Insulin lottery puts lives at risk

As the Mail reported this week, patients with insulin-dependent diabetes face a postcode lottery to get insulin pumps that replace the need for injections.

In some areas, as few as 5 per cent of those eligible for pumps on the NHS have access to them — that equates to thousands of people in England and Wales.

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These smart devices are worn on the body and deliver a calculated amount of insulin via a thin tube placed under the skin.

In the long-term, erratic insulin management can do huge damage to the body. It is the main cause of the complications associated with diabetes such as blindness and poor circulation that can lead to amputation [File photo]

In the long-term, erratic insulin management can do huge damage to the body. It is the main cause of the complications associated with diabetes such as blindness and poor circulation that can lead to amputation [File photo]

Surveys say two-thirds of diabetics admit to feeling self-conscious about injecting, while more than half admit to skipping injections rather than administering them in public.

Other diabetics worry about having ‘hypos’ — episodes of low blood sugar — which are caused by injecting too much insulin (or not eating enough).

In the long-term, erratic insulin management can do huge damage to the body. It is the main cause of the complications associated with diabetes such as blindness and poor circulation that can lead to amputation.

This is a particular issue in the UK, as diabetic patients have some of the worst blood glucose levels in Europe. 

Insulin pumps have revolutionised diabetes management and undoubtedly save lives. It’s a scandal that not everyone is able to access them.  

Professor John Newton, of Public Health England, this week stated categorically that vaping is less harmful than cigarettes.

Yet a recent survey of vapers found that one in four smokers has resumed tobacco smoking in light of recent scare stories about the risks of vaping. 

(There have been dozens of deaths in the U.S. and cases of mysterious lung problems linked to vaping.) This means that one million people in the UK may be back puffing on cigarettes again.

This is a tragedy. We all know how deadly cigarettes are, so well done to Professor Newton for putting the facts out there so clearly.

We’ve been warned this week that patients face longer waits for surgery over the winter, because surgeons are cutting the hours they work due to the pension crisis.

This is an ongoing problem — a bizarre consequence of changes introduced to the pension system by George Osborne when he was Chancellor — whereby senior NHS doctors (and other staff) who work beyond a certain number of hours risk severe financial penalties for doing so.

It’s affecting mental health services, too. And just how serious things have become is exemplified by Dr Kate Lovett, Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who disclosed that she has just had a tax bill for £20,000 more than she earned last year.

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I know Dr Lovett to be a committed psychiatrist who works with severely mentally ill people. She has never done private work. Who would blame her if she quit the NHS in disgust? 

The Government admits we need more doctors, but we must find a way of fixing this pensions anomaly to ensure that the senior NHS clinicians we have — trained at taxpayers’ expense and hugely experienced — want to stay.

We’ve been warned this week that patients face longer waits for surgery over the winter, because surgeons are cutting the hours they work due to the pension crisis [File photo]

We’ve been warned this week that patients face longer waits for surgery over the winter, because surgeons are cutting the hours they work due to the pension crisis [File photo]

When it’s healthy to be a narcissist

A little bit of narcissism can be good for you, according to a study this week by Queen’s University Belfast.

Researchers found that having narcissistic traits can protect against depression.

Of course, narcissism is present to a lesser or greater degree in all of us, and it can be beneficial, helping our self-belief and fuelling self-determination and focus.

It’s a tricky line to walk, though. Narcissistic traits are common in celebrities and successful people. 

While they are riding high, their ego remains satisfied because objectively they are seen to be achieving, and they receive regular, consistent praise and adoration because of their status.

However, if there is a fall from grace — they lose their starring roles, perhaps, or miss out on promotion — they can deteriorate psychologically.

So by all means cultivate your inner narcissist, but do so lightly and in a knowing way to avoid self-obsession and help develop mental resilience when things don’t go your way.

Dr Max Prescribes…

TV Drama ‘Succession’

It’s the TV show everyone’s talking about. Now in its second season, the Sky Atlantic drama — whose stars include Brian Cox and Matthew Macfadyen — examines the lives of a billionaire media dynasty. 

I’m addicted to it — not least because it’s a reminder that material possessions and power don’t bring contentment or satisfaction.

Yes, it makes for a gripping piece of television — but it’s an edifying life lesson, too.



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