A New Perspective On Reconstruction

We’ve heard about a lot of breast reconstructive methods, from stem cell implants to implants that fight cancer and beyond. But nothing like this reconstructive method has ever been introduced. Post-mastectomy (or lumpectomy) tattoos create something beautiful of the area that was affected by breast cancer, a process that can also heal the patient emotionally.

But tattoo prices can range from $50 to hundreds or even thousands, depending on the detail of the tattoo, the level of experience of the artist, the city you are getting it in, and the size of the tattoo. That’s where P.INK comes in. P.INK is a nonprofit organization which helps connect breast cancer survivors with experienced tattoo artists who are willing to help. On this year’s P.INK Day, P.INK raised enough money to fund 10 breast cancer survivor’s scar-covering tattoos, and they hope to do even more next year.

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Along Came Molly

It all began with Molly Ortwein, a breast cancer survivor who wanted to cover up her breast cancer scars with tattoos of the Pernambuco Blossom of Brazil, a rare but resilient flower. After researching her options online, she found there were not very many outlets for breast cancer survivors to get tattoos to cover up mastectomy scars. This inspired her to help start P.INK. Her video, which went viral on February 20th, made Molly and P.INK an Internet sensation.

Though Molly was the face of P.INK, there was another person helping to run the show behind the pink curtain. Noel Franus, Molly’s brother-in-law and the founder and overseer of P.INK, helped document Molly’s journey and turn it into a resource for other breast cancer survivors. The result was p-ink.org, a Pinterest page which is one of the leading resources for breast cancer survivors who want to get tattoos over their scars.

The Facts

Surgical options for a breast cancer patient vary based on the size, location, and spreading of the cancer. The two biggest surgical options are mastectomy and lumpectomy. Lumpectomies are used in the early stages of breast cancer to remove the part of the breast that is infected by cancer. It does not always remove all of the cancerous cells and is often accompanied by radiation therapy or additional surgery. However, it preserves most of the breast.

A mastectomy is a more aggressive treatment for breast cancer. In many cases, more than half of the breast is removed, leaving the patient severely scarred. After a mastectomy, many patients decide to get reconstructive surgery. The tattoos that P.INK promotes help patients who have undergone reconstructive surgery and those who have not.

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A Survivor’s Options

Getting a tattoo is only one choice in a range of post-op options. Many patients choose to get a breast reconstruction, which often involves using saline or silicone implants to restore the breast to a more natural shape and size. This option may or may not be covered by your insurance plan. Talk to your doctor before a mastectomy or lumpectomy to see if you are eligible for reconstruction.

Of course, reconstruction can always be paired with the initiatives that P.INK promotes. For more information on tattoos as a healing mechanism for cancer survivors, visit p-ink.org.