Monika Montalvo was barely 12-years-old when she started noticing her breasts were developing much faster than her friends.
"I went to middle school and noticed I was bigger than the other girls and they just kept growing and growing," she said.
By the time Montalvo reached high school, the size of her breasts started affecting her both emotionally and physically.
"I wanted to do cheerleading but I couldn't. The pain in my back was horrible and on top of that, it was hard to find clothing," Montalvo said.
Her self-esteem began to suffer.
"I'd go to the mall with my friends and it was like people were always staring at my chest," Montalvo said.
Memorial Healthcare plastic surgeon Dr. Jonathan Weiser said most teenage girls who come to him for a breast reduction consultation are suffering from significant issues.
"These can be issues with socialization or physical problems such as back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain," said Weiser. "What we've found over time is that some of these factors, if not treated when they're young, get worse over time."
The key is carefully identifying the appropriate candidates for surgery.
"In this population, we have to make sure the patient is done growing. We do that quite simply by reviewing how often they've changed bra sizes in recent months," said Weiser. "If they have changed their size in well over a year, we can feel pretty confident they're done growing."
Just as important is addressing the patient's motivation and expectations.
"We want to be sure she's initiating the appointment, not her parents or her friends, and we need her to understand what she might be facing after surgery," said Weiser.
Weiser impresses on patients that they will be left with noticeable scars, may lose sensation in the nipple area, and could be unable to breast feed.
"Another concern after pregnancy is weight gain. Many women gain weight in their breasts and don't lose it after giving birth, which means possibly going through another reduction down the road," he said.
Montalvo was 15 when she first consulted with Weiser about the surgery, but he felt she wasn't done growing yet.
She underwent the procedure a year later at the age of 16.
"I couldn't wait any longer. I had to get it done," Montalvo said.
She joined the cheerleading squad and was able to start finding clothes that fit her body.
"It's great. I can feel the difference. I don't have as much weight on me anymore," she said. "I'm so happy I did it"
Dr. Jonathan Weiser can be reached at (954) 964-4113.