She thought the silicone injections were safe, but for Nafsika Lourentzatos, the enhancement procedure led to the loss of both of her breasts.
The former New York City-based event planner had been thinking about breast implants since she was very young, but her mother wouldn't allow her to do anything until she turned 18. While push-up bras held off her interest for a while, at 17, a friend told her about a married couple who were both doctors and would stop into town to perform silicone injections.
"[I thought] it was just a little injection, no big deal, not surgery," Lourentzatos, now 33, told FoxNews.com. Plus, the procedure cost $1,500, compared to the approximately $5,000 a breast augmentation would cost.
While Lourentzatos had done research on breast augmentation, she didn't do any for silicone injections. She went to a hotel in Manhattan, had the injections, and found that the results were disappointing.
"Not even a cup bigger," she said. "It was almost like I got nothing done."
Her boyfriend at the time started noticing lumps in her breasts, but Lourentzatos didn't become concerned until she was 22 and the lumps started moving up to her chest plate. She finally told her mother what she had done and they found out that the doctors who performed the procedure had been arrested in Colombia. The doctors were not certified to practice in the U.S.
Lourentzatos had a mammogram and sonogram and her doctor recommended she remove her breasts in order to rid her body of the silicone.
"I was terrified, shocked… How did I go from one injection to having my breasts removed?" Lourentzatos said.
Not wanting to acknowledge the news, she left the office and didn't return. It wasn't until Lourentzatos was nearing 30 that unrelated medical issues made her realize that she needed to take her health more seriously. She went to six different doctors who all recommended removing her breasts immediately, as the silicone could eventually get into her blood stream and kill her.
"Silicone gel was all over the breast and all over the chest wall," Dr. Ron Israel, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) member surgeon who performed Lourentzatos's reconstructive surgeries said in a video released by ASPS. "It looked like multiple pellets throughout the breast itself."
Lourentzatos's breasts had to be removed and Israeli spent hours performing several reconstruction surgeries. Her first surgery was in Jan. 2013 and the most recent one was done in Dec. 2013, but Lourentzatos may need one or two more due to the visible dents in her chest left after the silicone bits— and much of her skin— was removed.
According to ASPS, cases like Lourentzatos's— with patients coming in to correct botched surgeries— are becoming more and more common. The organization has launched a new public safety campaign to warn the public that not all doctors are qualified to perform plastic surgery.
"Sometimes patients will spend more time picking a color for a new car or deciding on a new car than actually investigating a surgeon that is actually taking your life into his or her hands, and that to me is frightening because it's your life. You can replace your car, but you can't replace your life," ASPS President Dr. Scot Glasberg told FoxNews.com. He added that the pressures of the insurance market and lower reimbursement to physicians has led to many unqualified people to perform plastic surgery and receive the out-of-pocket costs for it.
Glasberg and the ASPS recommend all patients considering plastic surgery asking the doctor two things: First, are you board certified and if so, by the ASPS, which is the only certifying body in the U.S.? Second, is the facility you operate in an accredited facility? The ASPS requires all board-certified surgeons to operate in accredited facilities.
Many patients neglect the due diligence when researching their doctor because people are inherently trusting, especially with physicians, Glasberg said.
"…but a lot of people operate under the guise that they don't get asked these questions," he said. "These two easy questions get a long way to getting the information you need to make sure you're safe."
The ASPS website also has a Find a Surgeon tool to find a board-certified doctor.
"Your body is the most important thing that you have, doing research and finding out as much info as you can… is extremely important," Lourentzatos said. "The trauma, depression and sadness going through with this whole experience, I wouldn't even want my own worst enemy to going through it."