Sun, sand, the sea - and a boob job

By: Michelle Henderson
30 November, 2012

The combination of sun, sand, the sea and a boob job is proving an irresistible lure to scores of young Australian women travelling to exotic destinations for cosmetic surgery.

Women in their early 20s are increasingly travelling to locations including Thailand in groups organised by agents to access cheaper cosmetic procedures, a NSW researcher says.

Overwhelmingly, those surveyed by Dr Meredith Jones from Sydney's University of Technology were happy with the results.

Although the cost, which can be up to half the price of the same surgery in Australia, was a motivating factor for many participants, Dr Jones said the quality of surgery was also behind many decisions.

"Most people are attracted to it because it is cheap overseas but the agents are beginning to tell us that they are servicing people who are choosing to go overseas because they think they will get better work done," Dr Jones told AAP.

Dr Jones is surveying Australians who have visited Thailand and Malaysia for cosmetic surgery, as part of a wider UK-run international study into cosmetic surgery tourism.

Thailand and Malaysia are the two most popular cosmetic surgery destinations for Australians.

Dr Jones said the number of women in their 20s that she observed this year travelling to Thailand in organised groups, often for breast augmentation, was a marked difference from three years ago.

The women were not necessarily getting the surgery after years of serious contemplation.

"For many of these young women it was the first time they had been overseas," Dr Jones said.

"It's about going in a group, it's about it not being too expensive, it's about it being packaged really as something that's quite fun."

However, Dr Jones said she found the trend troubling.

Cosmetic surgery involves risk whether it is done in Australia or overseas, but there is an increased risk of complications including deep vein thrombosis from long-haul flights following surgery, she said.

"I'm very concerned that young women in particular are wasting their money on this sort of operation.

"They could be spending that money on all sorts of wonderful things, (such as) education, travel, or making themselves financially independent."

Based on her research, Dr Jones estimates that about 15,000 Australians seek cosmetic surgery procedures overseas each year, spending a combined total of about $300 million.

Thirty-year-old mother Renee* went to Thailand for breast enlargement surgery in October this year.

The mother of two toddlers said it was something she always wanted to get done, but put off until she had completed having a family.

Renee investigated the cost of the surgery in Australia and was looking at $11,000, while the procedure at Phuket International Hospital cost her $4000.

She was impressed by the results and the high quality of care she received at the hospital.

"I was very, very happy with the outcome," she said. "The cost is certainly much more effective over there."

But she was shocked at the "busloads" of younger women having the same surgery.

However, the cosmetic surgery industry in Australia is against the trend.

A spokesman from the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery said the organisation discourages cosmetic tourism, arguing there are increased risks from travel, the lack of follow-up and the inability to seek redress if things go wrong.

Dr Jones' research will next focus on cosmetic surgery tourism in Malaysia.

The Universities of Leeds and Leicester in the UK are studying Britons who go to Poland, Spain and Tunisia, and Chinese people travelling to South Korea for cosmetic surgery.

*Not real name.

Source: AAP