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Tattoos For Breast Cancer Patients

Risks Of Nipple Reconstruction Surgery

Breast cancer survivors use tattoos to help heal

With any reconstruction surgery, infection is always a risk, so make sure you understand your post-surgical instructions and call your doctor if you notice anything concerning in the area, like pus, a bad smell, or if you have chills or fever. One October 2013 study in the European Journal of Plastic Surgery points to nipple reconstruction being a high-risk procedure for people who have had radiation therapy.

Are Tattoo Inks Safe

Tattoo ink contains pigments that give tattoos color and definition. A tattoo is created by the artist injecting this ink into your skin using various tools and techniques.

However, the U.S. government does not regulate the chemicals that are in tattoo inks, and no tattoo inks have been approved by the U.S. Food and Administration . Instead, the FDA collects data on adverse, or unexpected, reactions to the inks and intervenes if serious safety issues arise.

Allergic reactions are the most frequent problem Kilmer sees arise from tattoos in her dermatology practice. If something is irritated, see a dermatologist, Dr. Kilmer says.

One concern around the use of tattoo inks is the risk of infection from unclean equipment or ink contaminated with bacteria or mold, according to the FDA. Unfortunately, theres no simple way to tell if the ink is safe. So if youre considering getting a tattoo, review your state regulations and check with your local public health department to see if a tattoo artist or parlor is in good standing. Then, ask the tattoo artist or parlor about their sanitation procedures and the type of equipment and inks they plan to use.

Women Share The Tattoos Inspired By Their Breast Cancer Diagnosis

While a breast cancer diagnosisor the treatment that followsmight make a person feel weak, breast cancer tattoos can be a celebration of strength and perseverance. And while you cant control the scars that come with breast cancer treatment, it might be comforting to take back some control over your changing body with a breast cancer tattoo. The women we spoke with said their breast cancer tattoos served as daily reminders of how far theyve comeand theyve sparked awareness-building conversations. Some put a tattoo inspired by their breast cancer on their breast while others picked a more visible spot. Scroll down to see their breast cancer tattoos, and read the powerful stories behind them.*

Ive been living with metastatic breast cancer for three and a half years. In that time Ive gotten five tattoos. Most are over divots or scarring from surgeries. Each one redeems or explains a part of my story. First I got a frayed ribbon that looks like the METUP logo over the divot in my left breast. Its all black, so its stark and stands out against my skin. It gave me the courage to keep going. Abigail Johnston

My sister Krista was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer exactly three months to the day after my diagnosis. M.S.

Our sister Jean, whos happily married to a wonderful wife, has rainbow colors in her tattoo to show support for the LGBT community. M.S.

*Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

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Uplifting Breast Cancer Tattoos For Survivors And Supporters

16th Jun 16 8:02 am by admin

Cancer is a terrible thing to experience. What is even worse that cancer effects not only the patient, but those around him/her as well. And it is exhausting on both of them. That being said, many people nowadays survive cancer due to the advance in medicine. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, with statistics showing that 10% of women in the US develop cancer in their lifetime. To show support, many people opt for breast cancer tattoo. But survivors do as well. Here are some tattoos suitable for the opportunity.

These Markings Are Done To Help Guide Treatment

Brandi Egbert (Ink Well Tattoo): Breast Cancer Ribbons

Radiation can be an important part of treatment for breast cancer. During radiation treatment, high-energy beams are aimed at the breast tissue to kill cancer cells.

Before breast radiation is delivered, skin markings known as radiation tattoos, need to be placed on the skin. These marks help the radiation therapist aim the radiation precisely where it’s needed.

Radiation is typically given five days a week for about six weeks, and it’s critical the radiation is aimed at the same place in order to prevent cancer recurrence and to spare healthy tissue.

This article will review the process of tattoo placement and the types of breast tattoos available, as well as alternatives.

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Nipple Tattooing After Breast Cancer Surgery

During treatment for breast cancer, many men and women undergo surgery to remove one or both breasts , followed by breast reconstruction. While this process can sometimes spare the nipple, many people are left without a nipple and areola.

Nipple tattooing provides a nipple and areola replica on the new breast. The tattoo can help patients feel more self-confident and complete after their cancer treatment surgery.

Miami Cancer Institute provides on-site nipple tattooing services for our patients who have had breast reconstruction surgery. The service, provided by Suzanne Moe of SUMA Ink, is available by appointment and can be scheduled with your surgery team.

How does the nipple tattooing process work?

Nipple tattooing is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure that involves implanting ink just below the top layer of skin . The customized ink color, combined with shadowing techniques, can give the illusion of depth and dimension, or a 3D nipple tattoo.

The tattooing session

Once you have scheduled your appointment for the tattooing, you will work with the artist to develop the size, shape and color of the nipple and areola. The pigments are blended carefully to fit your skin tone or to match an existing nipple.

After you have completed the design and coloring, the artist will draw an outline before starting the tattoo.

The tattoo process usually takes two hours or less.

After the procedure

How do I make an appointment?

What Should I Do During The Healing Period

For the first 10-14 days after the tattoo, it is important to keep the site clean and apply a healing ointment twice per day. Avoid direct sunlight, swimming or soaking in water during this time.You should be able to return to work and daily activities right away, and moderate exercise is safe.Over time, your tattoo will soften, and the color will lighten as new layers of skin grow over the tattoo. Avoid scratching or picking at the tattoo while it is healing.

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What If Projection Isnt Important

If projection is not important, then 3D nipples tattoos may be right for you! There are two main types, and both are often referred to as 3D tattoos, so its important to know the differences.

MicropigmentationMicropigmentation is a process where a micropigmentation specialist or nurse injects pigment, not ink, into the dermal layer of the skin. The procedure is typically performed at a clinic. The procedure takes about an hour and there are minimal risks that include scarring, irritation, uneven color, or infection.

Micropigmentation does fade, and touch-ups are recommended about every two years. But the advantage of that is that if things dont turn out 100% perfect, they can be adjusted. As your skin changes over time, your coloring can be adjusted so that your nipples still appear in the correct place. It usually takes a couple of sessions to get the coloring just right, and multiple pigments are blended to create an impressively realistic 3D look.

Classic 3D Nipple TattoosAnother more permanent option is to use a tattoo artist that specializes in 3D nipple tattoos. Tattoo artist Vinnie Meyers has gained considerable notoriety creating incredible nipple tattoos for women with reconstructed breasts with and without the created projection.

It’s A Personal Choice But If You’re Weighing The Decision And It’s Something You Think You Want To Do Do It It Will Change Your Life And It Will Change Your Perspective Jennifer Roush 40

Breast cancer tattoos offer unique option for patients going through breast reconstruction

After she went through her double mastectomy, Jennifer knew she didn’t want to get reconstructive surgery. “I was going to be going through chemo, and I didn’t want the extra stress, extra weight on my body,” she told BuzzFeed Life. “I didn’t want to put my body through anything that wasn’t necessary.”

After her scars healed, she began to think about exploring a tattoo or coverup option. When she heard about and reached out, they asked her if she wanted to participate in Day 2014.

Jennifer worked with a tattoo artist named Darren Hall, who created a claddaugh design for her, per her request. “I chose it because I really believed in its meaning, it was something really special to me growing up as a little girl I had all the claddaugh jewelry,” she said. “It stands for love, loyalty, friendship.”

And she loves how it turned out: “I’m still really blown away by it,” she said. “I love it. And the compliments I get for it are just amazing. There was this elderly lady, maybe 70 or 80 years old, who came up to me and just loved it she was in awe of how beautiful it was.”

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Are There Risks To Hiding Moles With Tattoos

A tattoo could potentially make it challenging to watch a skin mole for suspicious changes, and the colors in tattoos might also disguise changes to moles that can indicate skin cancer. Thats why its important to talk with a dermatologist if you have any questions about your skin or moles before getting a tattoo.

A general good rule of thumb is that tattoos should not be placed over any moles. People should not get a tattoo over any funny looking moles, says Dr. Kilmer, adding that you could camouflage a cancerous mole or risk irritating it.

Meet Tattoo Artist Vinnie Myers Team: The Mission And Motivation

Shockney then made it a point to make sure other women could have the same option. With her influence, reach and recommendations among Johns Hopkins patients and survivors, word spread quickly about Myers. His schedule filled up with nipple tattoo appointments.

It got super busy, busier than I really wanted it to be, he recalled. Then, about five years ago, he felt he reached a tipping point.

Thats when I kind of decided I wasnt going to do it anymore. And the day that I decided to stop is the day my sister called me and told me she had breast cancer, he said.

That was on a Monday. I decided, This is a sign that Ive got to keep doing this.

Myers made a decision to devote his career entirely to nipple and areola tattooing.

And from that point, it just went completely ballistic.

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When Can I Get A Tattoo

Before getting a tattoo your operation sites need to be completely healed. This takes around a year, but ideally you should leave it at little longer before getting a tattoo. You should have also finished any chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment.

Check with your treatment team if youre considering getting a tattoo.

Pink Is A Charitable Initiative Created By The Ad Agency Cp+b That Connects Mastectomy Patients With Qualified Tattoo Artists

Breast cancer tattoo

For two years in a row, it’s hosted Day events, where it connects mastectomy patients with qualified tattoo artists who donate their time and services free of charge. In 2013, 10 patients received tattoos in 2014, expanded the event to 12 cities in the U.S. and Canada, and 38 patients received tattoos. accepts donations throughout the year to help pay for survivors to receive tattoos on a first-come, first-served basis.

For this story, BuzzFeed Life spoke with several women who participated in Day events about their experiences.

Here’s some of what they had to say.

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What Is A Nipple Tattoo

Nipple-areola tattooing is a cosmetic procedure to help recreate an individuals nipple.

Although nipple reconstruction is a popular choice for many, some people may decide to get permanent 3D nipple tattoos instead.

An experienced tattoo artist can create images of highly realistic-looking nipples. These tattoos will appear to be 3D but will be flat to the touch.

For those who have undergone a unilateral mastectomy, it is possible to match the color, shape, and texture of the existing nipple.

This procedure typically follows breast reconstruction surgery, but some individuals may use tattooing after nipple reconstruction surgery to add color or make their new nipple or nipples appear more realistic.

Nipple tattooing offers a

34 months after breast reconstruction surgery to get nipple reconstruction or nipple tattoos. This will give the new breast or breasts time to heal properly.

Having a visual consultation with the tattoo artist may be necessary in order for them to confirm that the skin has healed enough.

If a person has any known allergies, they may have to undergo a skin allergy test 24 hours before the procedure. This involves applying a small amount of pigment to the skin and seeing whether or not there is a reaction.

Kerry A’s Iris Tattoo

‘I came up with the idea of a tattoo after seeing internet pictures but it took me some time to decide on a design. An Iris, my grandmother’s name… It has elevated my self-esteem more than I could ever have predicted. Now, when I look down, I see a beautiful piece of art rather than a scar.’ – Kerry A

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Each Flower Represents A Person I Feel I’m On This Journey For Megan Hartman 31

Megan, pictured above, found out that she carried the BRCA gene that increases your odds of developing cancer. At age 27, she decided to get a preventative double mastectomy. She got reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy and was planning to get nipple tattoos, but then her surgeon’s office lost their tattoo artist and her plans were delayed.

“Each flower represents a person I feel I’m on this journey for,” Megan told BuzzFeed Life. “I have a flower for my husband, a flower for my mom, and a flower for my son and daughter. My mom’s flower is surrounded by forget-me-nots because she passed away from cancer. A friend asked me: Where’s your flower? I hadn’t thought about it, initially I’d been thinking that I had made this decision because I wanted my kids to have a mother forever. But I did it for myself, too. I wanted to live. So I picked the aster flower for the side that Joy did for It’s a bunch of aster flowers and a quote.”

Above, artist Joy Rumore works on Megan’s tattoo.

“I love the tattoos. I really do,” Megan said. “I’m an athlete and I get changed in the women’s locker room on a daily basis. I noticed that after the people stared. Not in a rude way, more like a confused or curious way. I’d see them do double-takes. It’s not normal to see someone without nipples. And at the time I was only 27, so that made it almost more confusing the thought of breast cancer didn’t resonate with most people because of my age.

Benefits Of 3d Nipple Tattoos

Tattoo artist helping breast cancer survivors

After a mastectomy, patients have the option to follow it with surgical breast reconstruction. The mastectomy often removes the nipple, and the reconstruction focuses on the size and shape of the breast. After breast cancer, many women simply dont have nipples.

Compared With Nipple Reconstruction Surgery

Nipple reconstruction is a surgical alternative to 3D nipple tattoos. However, nipple reconstructive surgery is intimidating to many breast cancer survivors. After a long battle with breast cancer and overcoming many surgeries and hospital stays, the prospect of another surgery is daunting.

Nipple reconstruction involves either skin grafts or folding the skin on the breast to form a new nipple. Although the procedure is typically outpatient, nipple reconstruction surgery is still invasive and more costly than 3D nipple tattoos. There can also be more risks to the procedure.


The greatest benefit to tattoos after a mastectomy is increased confidence. After the battle with cancer and breast reconstruction, the completion of the nipple tattoo marks the final phase of healing.

The tattoo can be likened to the period at the end of a sentence. It is the last stage in recovery and marks the completion of the fight and an end to the harrowing experience.

Without nipples, many breast cancer survivors feel incomplete and lack body confidence. It can result in feeling like less of a woman.

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Incredibly Inspiring Breast Cancer Tattoos

“I’m here.”

For the past 40 years, October has been a month dedicated to breast cancer awareness. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly one in eight American women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. And contrary to popular belief, 85% of people who are diagnosed do not have a family history of breast cancer.

A study published earlier this year revealed that Black women are 42% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Early detection and advances in medicine are key to improving survival rates.

As of 2020, there are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States. Many people have transformed their challenging experiences into beautiful body art. Its a permanent way to pay tribute to your fight or that of someone else. So, we rounded up a few breast cancer tattoos to get you inspired. Whether your breast cancer awareness involves getting tested, donating to survivor funds, or receiving treatment, we must never lose hope for a cure.

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