Tattoos Not Just For Fashion
By: Brandy (Korman) Haslam
How are tattoos used to help breast cancer patients?
San Antonio, TX–Tattoos have been used for centuries for fashion and decoration, but today tattooing is also helping breast cancer patients feel whole again.
After her breast reconstruction surgery last year, 33 year old PRMA patient Myrna Gonzalez says she was ready for the final stage of reconstruction, the micropigmentation or “nipple tattooing.”
The procedure is usually done after nipple reconstruction and is used to simulate the color, shape and texture of the nipple and areola to give the appearance of a lifelike breast.
PRMA nurse Amy Riordan says that the process is a permanent procedure used to restore color to the nipple and areola. “Using a needle, pigment is deposited into the dermal layer of the skin to restore color to the nipple areola complex,” says Riordan.
The appointment is a simple in-office procedure that only takes about 90 minutes to complete. The procedure is performed with equipment that is similar to what is used in permanent cosmetics and only requires local anesthesia. The tattoos do not cause any additional scaring and actually help camouflage the color and soften the texture of existing scars.
To decide on the correct shade, colors are chosen based on the patients skin tone or opposite nipple. Achieving the perfect shade may require more than one visit and as with any tattoo, the pigment will sometimes fade over time necessitating a return visit for a touch-up.
“Every patient is different,” says Riordan. “Some need touch-ups within one year, some may never need to have the pigment touched up.”
Riordan says that patients usually have a follow up visit one month after the procedure to assess pigment absorption.
Completing the final stage of breast reconstruction is an emotional time for many breast cancer survivors as they have regained something that many women are not sure if they will ever get back.
“I feel whole again,” says Gonzalez. “Everyday I say I’m so thankful, I’m a woman again.”
Riordan says that seeing the patient at the end of their journey is an unforgettable experience. “For us to be a part of the patients reconstructive journey from the beginning to end and seeing the patient completed and feeling whole again is an amazing experience.”