For patients who have undergone a single or double mastectomy or other similarly breast-altering surgeries, further reconstructive surgery may be intimidating. But a number of alternative forms of reconstruction are beginning to surface, allowing reconstruction of the breasts without invasive or scar-leaving surgeries.

One method, utilizing tattoos to reconstruct the nipple and areola area, is growing in popularity.

The Concept

Dealing with breast cancer is full of hardship, especially when a patient is faced with the necessity of having one or both breasts removed in order to eliminate the cancerous area. There are several breast reconstructive surgery options available for patients who have undergone a mastectomy, including varying degrees of breast reconstruction and a number of different implant and prosthetic options.

The notion of multiple surgeries, which leave scars as well as difficult physical and emotional recoveries, is unacceptable to some. Without surgery, the options for breast reconstruction are somewhat limited. However, a relatively new alternative procedure, which has gone largely unnoticed, aids in nipple and areola reconstruction without the need for any major physical surgery.

You Might Like This:

The Tattoos

Over the past decade, the prominence of nipple and areola tattoos has become slightly more popular, but is still a very uncommonly considered option in the medical community. Through professional tattoo artistry, it is possible to render and introduce a three-dimensional artistic construct that replicates the depth and shading of the areola and nipple on patients.

The process usually involves “before” photos, if available, to maximize the lifelike artistic representation. It usually complements an existing breast reconstruction procedure, which can restore shape and form to the whole of the breast. Getting a tattoo after a mastectomy is generally considered very safe, and is a reasonable and minimally invasive non-surgical option to enhance post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.

Results of the implementation have been strikingly positive, with proponents citing the realistic look of the artistically reconstructed nipple areas. It can be done in as little as 45 minutes. However, tattoos are not available for every woman. Those who have had radiation therapy, or those who have very thin skin, may not be viable candidates.

Application And Availability

Over the past twelve years, breast reconstructive tattoo artist Vinnie Myers estimates he has created between 2,000 and 3,000 nipple and areola tattoos. He spends one week out of every month he spends tattooing at The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans. Many insurance programs will allow for the tattoo application as part of a package of breast reconstruction, but they are relatively affordable even if they are not available through a provider. The cost is generally $400 to $600 for the uninsured.

In addition to the permanent, quality three-dimensional nipple tattoos, mastectomy patients may also be able to find varying qualities of temporary tattoos. Functioning similarly to rub-on tattoos for children, these tattoos can provide a temporary presence for those who do not wish to undergo any surgical or tattooing procedure.