May 12, 2008 -- Sheyla Hershey has set a new record for something she can't and doesn't want to hide -- the largest breasts in Brazil, and perhaps the world. But is she in for more pain than she bargained for?
After eight surgeries and a gallon of silicone, Hershey's breasts round out to an astonishing 34 FFF -- and she claims she's not done.
In an interview with Fox 26 in Houston, where she traveled for the operation, the 28-year-old Brazilian actress and model said that she would like her breasts to be even bigger.
Unfortunately for Hershey, the state of Texas has limits on the amount of silicone that can be injected into breast implants -- and Dr. Malcolm Roth says this is for good reason.
"We know that the larger the implant the more likely there will be problems down the road," he says. "Maybe she'll be fortunate and not have problems, but those are very, very large breasts.
"The problems that can ensue with breast implants could be wound separation that could lead to exposure of the implant, infection, scarring, certainly pain and capsular contractions."
Roth is the director of plastic surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the vice president of health policy and advisory for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Besides the serious medical risks associated with such large breast implants, he says there is an ethical problem as well.
"Part of the six years of training to become a certified plastic surgeon is to find out if the patient has realistic expectations," he says. "It certainly appears as if this woman has pushed the envelope on what is expectable. I certainly would not perform any additional surgery on her."
Although it looks as though Hershey will have to look elsewhere if she plans on upping the ante even further, it's hard to imagine anything will stand in the way of her "dream."
"I want to look better each day, every day," she told the Houston television station. "Everybody's got a dream inside, you know? And it's good when you can make your dream come true."
Big Breasts, Major Pain
Hershey's dream is now only a downward glance away. But for millions of women who have naturally large breasts, Hershey's dream is their nightmare.
Kelly, a 29-year-old from Michigan who asked that her last name not be used, says she was miserable before her breast reduction surgery last month. And she was only a 34 DD.
"Every night I was taking three extra-strength Tylenol because my back was hurting so bad, and by the middle of the night I'd be sore again," she recalls. "I wasn't sleeping because I was hurting so badly. And in the morning I had to get two children together and get myself ready for work. And I'd get to work, and by two my back hurt so badly I could barely sit at my desk and work."
That kind of back pain is a common complaint among large-breasted women, says Dr. Andrew Haig, director of the spine program at the University of Michigan. This pain is often the result of sheer gravity.
"A lot of times the pain is in the back of the rib cage and the spine area is because women are trying hard to arch their back so they don't fall forward because of the weight of their breasts," he says.
And while it's common knowledge that oversize breasts can have detrimental effects on the body, Kelly says it was the emotional pain that finally drove her to the plastic surgeon's office.
"Having breasts that size was horribly embarrassing," she says. "I didn't feel good about myself anymore; I was ashamed of myself. I fretted going clothes shopping because I'd go to nice clothing stores and they never carried anything that covered my chest. Many times I would look at my husband and just start crying."
Kelly's story is not an anomaly. She is one of thousands of American women who, for physical or emotional reasons, have had or are considering having their breast size reduced. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeon's 2007 national plastic surgery statistics, there were 106,179 breast-reduction procedures performed last year -- an increase of 25 percent since 2000.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Bermant of New York says his patients' breast reductions can be contributed to several major factors.
"One, they just don't like the size of their breasts," Bermant says. "Two, they find that even when they're doing nothing, the weight of their breasts tends to weight them down. And the third thing they complain about is that they feel that their breast size should be something that's determined by them.
"And, of course, they don't want people staring at them too much."
But Haig cautions against assuming that Hershey will experience similar kinds of emotional and physical pain.
"Not everybody who has large breasts will have neck and back pain. But on occasion I've seen people who've had breast reductions because of the pain they had in their back and shoulders and their pain was relieved because of it," he notes.
When Surgery Spells Relief
Still, breast reduction surgery is sweet relief for some. Kelly says that within a week of her surgery she was "feeling amazing" for the first time in years.
"You think it's going to be painful, but it was the best thing I could have done. It was a life-changing experience."
Since she is only one month out of surgery, Kelly doesn't know yet what her new bra size will be, but believes she's somewhere between a B and C cup.
"It's funny, you know? Every one of my friends has said, 'Man, I wish I could have what you have.' And I always say, 'You don't even know what they're asking for.'"
Apparently, Hershey and Kelly haven't met.