Feeling insecure after a mastectomy? You are not alone here. In the USA alone, one in eight women develops invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. Therefore, there are a lot of women who have had their breast(s) removed in order to treat breast cancer.
In addition, a large number of these women is longing for a less invasive solution for recreating a natural look of their breasts after mastectomy. This especially refers to a nipple and areola reconstruction.
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If you are one of those ladies who have had a nipple-sparring mastectomy, your nipple and the area around it (areola) have been preserved then. However, not everybody with breast cancer has this option. Whether or not you are the right candidate for this kind of mastectomy mainly depends on the size and location of the breast cancer and the size and shape of the breasts. Your doctor is the one to make the final decision about this issue.
If, on the other hand, you belong to a group of women who have lost their nipple and areola during mastectomy, there is no need to despair any longer. A semi-permanent makeup treatment is created for solving this particular problem. It has many names, such as areola and nipple repigmentation, but most common one appears to be 3D nipple and areola tattoo, due to an unbelievably natural results it creates.
If you still haven’t heard for it, or you simply have some questions about the treatment, we have tried to answer them in this guide.
It is a special technique of a semi-permanent makeup that creates a realistic image of an areola and a nipple for breast cancer survivors. 3D nipple and areola tattoos are often used instead of nipple reconstruction surgery.
A trained tattoo artist will design and perform this semi-permanent technique similar to the one of microblading eyebrows. Just like microblading eyebrows, nipple and areola tattoos are made by implanting color pigment beneath the outer layer of the skin.
The treatment is done with a small electronic machine using precise disposable and sterile needles. However, unlike microblading eyebrows that last one to three years, tattooed nipples and areolas tend to last much longer.
Want to find out more about nipple and areola tattoos? Follow the links:
Nipple and Areola Tattoo Videos
Once you have completed all the treatments recommended by your doctor(s), you might consider going into reconstructive surgery where a surgeon rebuilds the shape of your removed breast. However, this surgery usually does not include the nipple and areola. Therefore, after the first breast reconstructive surgery, you could opt for another one – nipple reconstruction surgery as the final stage in the breast reconstruction process.
How soon you will be able to undergo nipple reconstruction surgery depends on how fast you heal and if you require radiation. It will probably take a few months and, again, your doctor will be the one to consult about the issue. Although there is a high satisfaction rate when it comes to nipple reconstruction, a lot of women are quite reluctant to take yet another surgery.
Upon the breast reconstruction and chest healing, a surgeon can perform another surgery with the aim of reconstructing your nipple. A part of skin from the reconstructed breast is cut and shaped into a nipple. After a couple of months from the nipple reconstruction, your surgeon can create an areola. In order to do this, a surgeon could use skin from other parts of your body like the abdomen or groin and attach it to your breast.
However, in most cases an areola tattoo is needed with the aim of achieving as complex color scheme as possible and, at the same time, a realistic image. Some surgeons offer tattoos themselves. They might lack an artistic touch, though.
This is another nipple reconstruction option. A small dermal implant is inserted under the top layer of skin in the center of the tattooed areola. A silicone nipple is then placed on top. This nipple is said to look and feel quite realistic. Yet again, an areola is tattooed around the silicone nipple.
These prosthetics are made from a soft silicone and are fully adhesive for fast and easy application and removal. They are waterproof stickers and last for weeks at a time.
Some women decide to get a designed tattoo over their scars. The action is associated with the healing process and a breast cancer survivor’s wish to claim ownership over her scars. A favorite animal, flower or personalized design could transform the scars into a reminder of the victory that has been gained over cancer.
A tattoo artist uses an oscillated tattoo needle coated with color pigment. The pigment is inserted into your skin in a skilled and artistic way so that a nipple and areola are visually recreated. They will not be physically reconstructed, but you will get a visual appearance of a 3D nipple together with the surrounding area, i.e. areola.
Prior to the actual tattooing part, you should first do consultations with your chosen artist. Both of you have to agree on the position and size of your nipple. It is best to try and match the nipple on the other breast as much as possible. Once you have agreed on the size and position, the tattoo artist needs to choose and mix various shades of pigment in order to achieve that hyper-realistic image of your 3D tattoo nipple and areola.
Your tattoo artist will guide you through the whole procedure during the consultations you have done prior to the treatment. However, these are some basic steps you could expect:
Afterwards, you will be taken into a room to undress and lie down. The tattoo master is about to disinfect the area where your new nipple and areola tattoo will be located.
The artist will create a design made to match the nipple on the other breast, if there is a nipple there. If not, the tattoo artist could use some of your old photos to try to recreate the natural look of your nipples and areolas. You will discuss the exact position, size and once you approve, lay back, relax and let the artist create his/her artistry.
Once you have completed the procedure, the artist will apply some petroleum jelly, i.e. Vaseline and place a bandage over your new mastectomy nipple tattoo.
It depends on the condition of your reconstructed breast, mostly on scaring and thickness of the skin. The whole procedure takes between one and three hours, depending whether you are having one or both breasts done.
The nipple and areola tattooing process itself normally does not take more than 30 minutes per breast. Most clients require one initial treatment followed by another appointment to build up the pigment color.
Mastectomy usually leads to breast numbness, since mastectomy causes nerve damage that reduces sensation in the breast. How much a nipple and areola tattooing process hurts varies from person to person, but be aware that your reconstructed breast is no longer as sensitive as it used to be. Thus, in most cases the pain level is quite low.
You might experience some tingling and discomfort, but a numbing cream or a topical local anesthetic could be applied 45-60 minutes prior to the treatment. Patients with implants might feel a vibration through the implant during the procedure.
Before the actual procedure, you should do some research on tattoo artists and salons. It is always best to ask women who have already had it done. Another option is to turn to your doctors and medical staff, since a lot of them are in contact with these professionals as they give that final touch to the healing process of breast cancer survivors.
You might also want to consider consulting a local cancer support group or your cancer center where they offer a lot of useful information about different stages of pre- and postoperative procedures. Once you have made a list of potential artists and/or studios that offer nipple tattoos, you could do some online research on their work and reviews.
Furthermore, you should:
Once you have chosen the artist and the facility, meet him/her for a consultation. Let the artist see your reconstructed breast, check the scaring and skin thickness. This will help him/her determine the best possible way to undergo the treatment.
PMUHub tip: Ask all the questions you have, resolve your dilemmas with the professional. Discuss the size, location and color of your nipple and areola tattoo. After all, tattoo artists who have a lot of experience are the ones to help you make the right decision and guide you through the whole process. In addition, you will be given instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.
Healing usually lasts up to 10 days. The following could be expected after the treatment:
Be aware that some products, such as those containing aloe vera, Retin A or glycolic acid, could lead to the tattoo fading more quickly.
This is nothing to be scared of, just to draw your attention to the fact you might need more frequent touch-ups in case your nipple and areola tattoo fades more quickly. However, in most cases nipple and areola tattoos last for years, especially with proper care.
Due to the fact the pigment is less concentrated than the traditional tattoo ink, the body metabolizes it more quickly and it fades over time. It will take years, though, before you need a touch-up. However, this depends on your skin condition and tone, as well. Some fair skinned women may require a touch-up every year.
Some of the most realistic results are achieved with 3D nipple tattoos, which are in fact real tattoos using oscillating needles coated with pigment. A tattoo artist uses a range of colors and one session is usually enough. An image of a 3D nipple is created and although it has no physical dimension, it looks amazingly real. A realistic looking nipple has the positive effect of improving body image and increasing your self-esteem.
Signs could be:
However, there is no evidence that getting a tattoo poses a health risk or increases the risk of cancer (re)occurrence. You should wait for a couple of months after your breast reconstructive surgery before getting your nipple and areola tattoo. It is especially important to delay tattoos after radiation. If you would like to be as safe as possible, consult your doctor before undergoing the 3D nipple tattoo treatment.
Additionally, you might think about doing a skin-patch test that involves applying a small amount of pigment with a needle to a small area. The test is done 48 hours before the treatment.
The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA) is a federal law that requires group health plans and health insurance companies that offer mastectomy coverage to also pay for reconstructive surgery after mastectomy. The coverage should include all stages of reconstruction with the aim of achieving symmetry between the breasts. You can find more information about WHCRA at the U.S. Department of Labor and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Therefore, there is a high chance that nipple and areola tattoos are in fact covered by some insurance plans. PMUHub Tip: Insurance coverage and criteria vary by state, so it is best to check with your insurance provider first. Your tattoo artist will give you a receipt that you could submit to your insurance company.
The cost of nipple and areola micropigmentation differs from artist to artist, from studio to studio, from state to state. It also depends on the extent of existing scarring and whether the client needs one or two tattoos.
The average price is around $400 per nipple. However, some artists charge per hour and it can go up to $1,500 an hour. One procedure can take from one to two hours in total. If you are in need of both nipples tattooed, some artists may offer a discount.
There are truly amazing nipple and areola tattoo artists. Let’s not forget that they have invested a lot of their time and money in adequate training and practice. Some of them create real art works.
Apart from possibly buying antibiotic ointment, there should not be any additional expenses.
Mastectomy is a required procedure to fight and remove breast cancer. It does lead to a loss of a breast, but your breast could be successfully surgically reconstructed. Your nipple and areola, though, require additional work. Some women feel completely satisfied without a nipple on their breast. Others do not.
Feeling insecure without your nipple after mastectomy? Don’t – you are a breast cancer survivor and you should be proud of that! Nowadays there are a lot of options to choose from. One of these is having a 3D nipple and areola tattooed onto your breast.
Despite being flat and drawn, these tattoos give a hyper-realistic image of a 3D protruding nipple with exquisite detailing. The areola seems to pucker, the skin seems to be chapped, there are darker and lighter folds. These images seem so hyper-realistic that even Instagram has taken down some photos of 3D nipples and areolas due to the platform’s strict no-nudity policy. This tells a lot about how amazingly realistic these tattoos seem, doesn’t it?
Yet again, the whole process usually does not take longer than an hour, with no additional surgery needed. How amazing is this?