One Option After Breast Cancer Surgery: Nipple Tattooing

by Victoria Tillotson

There are many reconstruction options for women who undergo breast cancer surgery. Doctors aim to boost the cancer patient’s self-esteem by working with them after a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or double mastectomy to get their breasts looking as normal as possible. If you have had breast and/or nipple reconstruction, you might be considering nipple tattooing. It is a valuable option for cancer fighters and cancer survivors; here is my advice simply drawn from my own experience:

Nipple Tattoos

Have your tattoo done by a professional tattoo artist who specializes in 3-D nipple tattooing and who knows how to treat skin or who may have done it before.

Professional tattoo artists are just that, artists. They are trained in using color and light to achieve aesthetic results and can recreate a natural look.

Ask to see before and after pictures of healed nipple tattoos.

Don't let the fear of pain put you off; nipple tattooing may not hurt if you have lost some sensation in the reconstructed breast. Even if it does sting, as soon as the tattoo artist is done, the pain ends!

Tattoos blur and fade over time, especially with exposure to sunlight and chlorine. The red colors used in nipple tattooing fade out at an even higher rate than other colors. Talk with your artist about doing a darker tattoo to accommodate for the change in color.

It is easy to make a tattoo larger, but it is very difficult to make one smaller. Ask your tattoo artist to err on the size of smaller. They can always add more ink.

Tattooed skin may peel and scab during healing. However, if you pick at your tattoos it could cause areas that are less pigmented and blotchy in color.

Not all tattoos heal evenly no matter how careful you are; don’t feel stressed if you need to have a color touch-up after the initial tattoo has healed and settled in.

Lastly,check with your insurance company about defraying costs. Nipple tattooing is part of breast reconstruction. While some companies will only pay for tattoos done by a plastic surgeon, you may be able to get partial reimbursement. It never hurts to ask!

As with any new procedure, be sure to check with your medical team before you get a tattoo.

Bio: Victoria Tillotson, Ph.D. is co-founder of Surviving Beautifully, a website and upcoming book providing advice for aesthetic issues during cancer treatment from experts in all fields of medicine and aesthetics. As a jewelry designer and author with a background in the fashion world, Victoria is no stranger to the power of maintaining self-image. After seeing her mother struggle with aesthetic issues during her fight, she partnered with five-year breast cancer survivor Lana Koifman, to research and create Surviving Beautifully. Together Victoria and Lana
hope to empower women with information to make the best choices about aesthetic issues during their healing journey and for life.

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