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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer


Our Voices Blog

The views and experiences expressed through personal stories on Our Voices Blog are those of the authors and their lived experiences. They do not necessarily reflect the position of the Canadian Breast Cancer Network. The information provided has not been medically reviewed and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your healthcare team when considering your treatment plans and goals.

Considering a Mastectomy Tattoo? Here’s What You Need to Know

Following breast cancer surgery, there are a variety of options available to you. You may choose to live flat, have breast reconstruction, get implants, or use breast prostheses. Another option that you may have not considered or known about are mastectomy tattoos. Women who have gotten mastectomy tattoos following their breast cancer treatment have given a variety of reasons for getting them, including that they are a confidence boost following treatment, to cover scars, to create something beautiful, and to mark what they’ve been through.

Once your partial or full mastectomy has been completed, you will have to wait a while for your operation sites to fully heal before getting a tattoo. You should also be finished with your radiation and chemotherapy treatments. The recommended wait time is around 3 years post treatment, however, you should check with your healthcare team to first confirm that you can safely get a tattoo and then to confirm how long you have to wait after cancer treatment.

When you’ve been giving the okay to get a tattoo and have been told how long you need to wait, it’s time to start researching where you want to get your tattoo done and by who. A quick Google search can let you know of local tattoo studios and artists. If possible, visit a few that you are interested in to see the artists at work and to get a sense of how clean and sanitary the studio is. If you cannot visit in person, the studio most likely has a website and social media pages that feature pictures and videos of their work. Another great avenue to finding an artist or studio is to ask family members or friends with tattoos for recommendations.

Don’t hesitate to reach out directly to the tattoo studio or to a specific artist to ask them questions about what to expect. Other questions to ask are:

  • If they have experience with mastectomy tattoos
  • Whether they are registered and have up-to-date health and safety certificates
  • If you can have the tattoo done in a private room or area
  • If you can bring someone with you
  • How many sessions it will take to complete your chosen design
  • What the expected costs are

Once you have chosen where to get your mastectomy tattoo and by whom, it’s a good idea to inform them of any allergies or health conditions that you may have, including that you had breast surgery. Depending on your scars and the tattoo that you want to get, the artist may incorporate your scars into the design or draw directly on them, speak to them about this and ask for their advice on the best way to go about this.

Although you may have experience of pain in your chest area from your mastectomy, the pain from a getting a tattoo is different and can be quite painful as local anaesthetic is not used; ask the tattoo about what type of pain to expect and how best to deal with it. Once the tattoo has been completed, you will most likely have a plastic film wrapped on the area. The artist will tell you how long to leave this on and will let you know about any necessary aftercare.

Getting a tattoo is a generally safe process. Risks associated with tattoo come from dirty needles that can spread diseases. Therefore, it is important to ensure that sterile equipment and fresh needles are used. Other risks from tattooing include:

  • Infections
  • Allergy to pigment
    • You can test for this by asking the tattoo artist to do a patch test
  • That they are permanent
    • While tattoos can be removed, this process can be expensive, painful, and there is no guarantee that the tattoo will be completely removed
  • Fading over time
  • Swelling, redness, bruising, and itchiness in the area where you get the tattoo
    • These should all go away after some time

If you are considering getting a mastectomy and need some inspiration or want to get a sense of how they look, you can have a look at the following galleries:

Mastectomy Tattoo Inspiration from Breast Cancer Now

Mastectomy Tattoos from Garnet Tattoo

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels