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The obsession with looking like a doll has turned many women scared of surgical intervention to creams.
These apparently magical products that are advertised as being capable of enlarging breasts or dissolve fat can, however, deliver even greater misery.
They can cause chemical allergies that not just destroy women’s breasts forever, but also leave side effects such as cancer and cardiological complications, doctors say.
A cosmetics shop on Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street in Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of these magical creams on offer.
It tempts women with pictures of models with full and round breasts and has all female shop assistants wearing dresses that show off their bosoms to best effect.
The customer will be measured, consulted on their skin condition, their financial capability, marriage status and sex life “in order to be prescribed the most suitable product,” one shop assistant said.
Around 100 products are available, ranging from lotions to oral tablets and powder for soup, priced between VND100,000 and 10 million (US$4.74-474) each.
Made in South Korea, they are said to take effect in three or four weeks.
The most expensive product is advertised to create impacts from within and result in breast enlargement of 2.5-7.5 centimeters that lasts a lifetime.
Another shop on An Duong Vuong Street in the city is full of customers from as young as 13 years old.
One customer, a 35-year-old woman only identified as N.K., said she was introduced to the products by her niece whose college friends were using a breast cream effectively.
K. said she had been given many nicknames for her small breasts since she was a teen, like “double back,” “LCD” or “slim fit.” She was so intimidated that she never dared like any man or think about marriage, and news about these products gave her hope.
K would do well to talk to D.H., a woman from Binh Duong Province neighboring the city, who has been undergoing treatment at the city Dermatology Hospital for a week.
She has told her family she is on an overseas assignment because she is ashamed of telling them that her condition is a result of her applying breast enlargement solutions.
Nearly 40, H. was gifted with the product package last Tet, the Lunar New Year festival. The package included a cream, a tablet and a kind of powder for making soup.
She was dubious but the instructions that came along were so convincing it made H. hope that she could stop living single. She also received consultation through a phone number provided in the package.
She decided to give it a try.
She felt a burning sensation and tension around her breasts 30 minutes after the cream was applied.
Her breasts outgrew her bras after just one night.
Excited with the first result, she took the soup made with the powder as instructed.
She continued to feel good until the third week, when her breast felt painful and the skin in the area became too soft.
H. said she stopped using the products, but it was too late, as her breast began to develop bubbles as big as tomatoes. They also began to burst.
Doctors said chemical allergies have severely damaged her skin cells and that the dermatitis would prevent her breast from returning to its original shape. They also said the chances are low that she would ever be able to breastfeed a baby.
H. also had to receive treatment for diarrhea caused by the soup.
Doctors say there is no kind of medicine can enlarge breasts as the body part depends on the structure of milk ducts, the breast muscles and the fat thickness under the skin.
Dr Nguyen Viet Luong from the National Burns Institute said in a report by news website Dan Tri that some external products used along with massage therapy can influence the breast shape by firming it up, but even that takes much longer than a month.
Dr Vu Hong Thai, director of the HCMC Dermatology Hospital, said users feel their breasts are enlarged due to the water retention effect of estrogen in the products.
He said abnormal estrogen increase in the body can affect one’s menstrual cycle, and increase the risk of stroke and blood clots as it upsets the hormonal balance in the body.
Synthetic estrogen has also been known to have side effects like breast cancer or endometrial cancer, which is a malignancy in the lining of the uterus.
A 2013 study by the Women’s Health Initiative of the US National Institutes of Health found that women taking menopausal hormone therapy or hormone replacement therapy may have a higher risk of breast cancer. The therapy is a combination of estrogen and progestin (a form of progesterone made in a laboratory) to help women cope with menopausal symptoms and prevent osteoporosis.
Hormone therapy with estrogen alone is only given to women who have had a hysterectomy (the removal of the uterus) because estrogen increases the risk of uterine cancer.
Thai said a structurally small breast is hard to fix, but one can improve upon a small breast caused by low nutrition with a guided intake of fish, olive oil, shrimp, milk and other products that have high amounts of phytoestrogen like soybean products, fruits and vegetables that have high amount of antioxidants, carotene and selenium like garlic, carrot, tomato, cabbage and cauliflower.
Exercises like push-ups, rowing boats or breaststroke swimming can also improve breast size, he said.
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