Nipple and areola reconstruction is designed to help breast cancer survivors look and feel like their old selves again.
These procedures aim to recreate all the features of the natural nipple, including its position, size, color, and shape.
Nipple tattooing is an effective, and increasingly popular way to create gradients of color and a three-dimensional look to match your natural breast.
Read this article to learn more about nipple tattoos and find everything you need to know before getting a tattoo nipple after cancer.
What Are Nipple Tattoos?
The final step of breast reconstruction. Nipple reconstruction surgery is usually a procedure that uses skin from the area of the breast where the nipple was originally located to form, or reconstruct, a new nipple that looks as similar as possible to the natural nipple mound.
Nipple and areola tattoos can give the reconstructed nipple back its natural color and texture by depositing cosmetic pigments into the skin with a specialized PMU machine.
This treatment is a form of medical or paramedical micropigmentation. It can be combined with breast scar camouflage procedures to give the most natural look possible to the breast.
Getting a tattoo nipple after cancer without reconstruction is also a possibility, and here you can either opt for a 3D nipple tattoo technique that uses permanent cosmetics ink or a traditional ink tattoo that can also be used to create an abstract design of your choice.
An experienced artist can create an amazingly realistic image of a nipple that appears to have physical dimension but is actually flat to the touch.
In recent years, a growing number of people have been opting for 3D nipple tattoos instead of nipple reconstruction surgery, as it is a far less invasive treatment.
Image source: Instagram @tanyabuxton
When to Get a Tattoo Nipple After Cancer?
It is extremely important to finish all cancer treatments and reconstructive surgeries before getting a tattoo nipple after cancer.
Plastic surgeons recommend waiting at least 4 months after breast reconstruction surgery to get nipple reconstruction or nipple tattoos. This will give your breasts time to heal and settle into a final position.
You will also need confirmation from your oncologist that it’s safe for you to get the tattoo.
Remember, nipple and areola tattoos are not only for women with a recent cancer journey. These procedures are also available for women who have had mastectomy surgeries years, or even decades ago.
Image source: Instagram @the.areola.tattooist
Tattoo Nipple After Cancer VS Nipple Reconstruction Surgery
While some women may consider it a disadvantage that nipple and areola tattoos have no physical dimension, others say they’re glad that they don’t have to wear a bra and worry about their nipples showing through their clothes.
Here’s a quick look at some of the benefits of nipple tattoos when compared to nipple reconstruction surgery:
- Nipple tattoos are a way to avoid surgery and the creation of new scars.
- They have a much easier healing and recovery process than nipple reconstruction surgery.
- Your chosen artist can add color and fine details to the nipple and areola which can’t be achieved with surgery.
- You can get your nipple tattooed in a cute, custom shape, like a heart!
Do Nipple Tattoos Hurt?
Nipple tattoos shouldn’t be painful. Your chosen artist will apply a numbing cream to the treated area, so the only thing you’ll feel is a slight scratching sensation and a bit of pressure.
It’s important to note that breast numbness after a mastectomy also plays a role in reducing the pain of nipple tattooing. Mastectomy significantly reduces sensation in the breasts, as nerves are often damaged during surgery.
If you’ve had nipple reconstruction surgery, your new nipple won’t have any sensation and you won’t feel any pain during the tattooing process. Women with implants also experience less sensation, even if they had a skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy.
How Much Do Nipple Tattoos Cost?
Before we get into details about the cost of nipple tattoos, we have to explain that there is no one universal rule to pricing a nipple and areola tattoo.
Your chosen artist will first have to assess the treated area before determining the price. Performing the treatment on heavily scarred tissue can be difficult and that may lead to a significantly higher price than the average.
The average price of one nipple tattoo is around $500, and $815 for both nipples if you’re paying out of pocket. The price of the first touch-up is usually included in the initial price.
If you have an insurance plan, make sure to check if it covers nipple tattooing. Medicare, for example, often covers nipple tattooing (although it is not required to do so under federal law), and Medicaid coverage can vary from state to state.
If you don’t have insurance coverage or can’t afford to pay the full price of nipple tattooing, do some research beforehand because there are many PMU artists and tattoo studios that offer discounts to cancer survivors and even do the tattoos for free on certain days.
Image source: Instagram @katiefoxtattoo
Who Isn’t a Candidate for Nipple Tattoos?
Women who’ve had breast reconstruction with an implant or tissue flap are candidates for both nipple reconstruction surgery and nipple tattooing.
However, there are certain cases where it isn’t recommended to get a nipple tattoo. Let’s take a quick look at who should avoid getting nipple tattoos:
- You should avoid getting nipple tattoos if the skin on your breasts has been damaged by radiation treatment.
- If your breast skin became overly thinned out when tissue was removed during your mastectomy.
- If you have lymphedema that involves the chest.
- If you have a history of infections in the breast area.
This list is not final. Consult your doctor.
To Sum Up
For many women, nipple and areola tattoos are the final step in their cancer journey. Tattoo nipple after cancer gives breast cancer survivors the option to have a realistic-looking nipple without having to undergo yet another surgery.
An experienced PMU artist can create 3D nipple tattoos with exquisite detail, including different tones, and the appearance of folds and skin that puckers like a natural areola and nipple.
Cover image source: Freepik