dangers of aerola tattoos after breast reconstruction

Doctors Recommending Areola Tattoos for Breast Cancer Patients…WHAT

dangers of aerola tattoos after breast reconstructionI was watching the news the other day and was a bit astounded at what I saw reported. Β The newscaster shared a special report about how doctors are recommending breast cancer patients and those who have had breast reconstruction surgery to get areola tattoos. These tattoos are supposed to recreate a nipple that was removed due to breast reconstruction after/during a battle with cancer.

Are you kidding me?

I don’t mean to come across as insensitive because I know very well how important a woman’s breasts are to her. Β A woman can feel broken and like she’s less than a woman after getting her breasts removed.

Bu,t correct me if I’m wrong; Doesn’t getting a tattoo require injecting of a dye (which can also lead to cancer) into the skin?

I would think that if a woman has or has had cancer, then her risks of getting it again are increased. Especially, if you inject a foreign substance into the body (foreign being anything that’s not natural to the body).

I’m sorry but I think it’s outrageous that a doctor would ever recommend an areola tattoo to a cancer survivor or cancer patient. Even if the risks of getting cancer from a tattoo are low, there’s still risk. Why add to those risks? With the advances in technology that have occurred over the years, there must be an alternative that is safer for breast cancer patients.

What do you think?


Michelle Smith
Michelle is a Christian special needs mom residing in the NYC area who shares useful tips to grow and maintain fine natural hair. She's a published author and Creator of Fine Natural Hair and Faith, inspiring others with faith for living along side knowledge on how to care for their "crown."

49 Comment

  1. I hear you on that. That was a long writing. The subject matter is one heck of a story. I considered putting it into small sections. I thought it might get confusing to read. In the case of that writing, I think it was about 3,000 words. I couldn’t think how to break it up without losing continuity and subject matter. The other link is a bit more succinct. The blog will likely have shorter writings. Some of my writing I might like to submit to somewhere in a different venue. I appreciate the feedback. I will try to have some blog posts that allow the reader to focus. Thoughts on breaking up long writing and keep the flow of the writing and not lose content. I am writing right now, but it is a social commentary. It will not be brief at all! πŸ™‚

    The other link has more succinct writing. Did you get a peek at that? I am trying to get that link passed by any one that will. Of course with these things, I am involved in fund raising so I was trying to capture the scary nature of autoimmune disease.

    Great to hear from you. “ADD”–lol!–it took me a second, because I thought, “Oh there is an ADD function.” I’ll have to figure that out. πŸ™‚


  2. Hi Michelle,

    I should have, but I was a little nervous to do so without asking first. Since you didn’t get the email, I will post it here, You can pull it if you need to. Both links give information about my story. The first is a link to a fundraiser that was started by my husband and sister due to the severity of my autoimmune diseases. The second is to my blog. I just started and there is only one writing there. It will give you and readers an idea of what autoimmune illness feels like, and I am working on another writing at the moment.



    I was thinking it might not be appropriate to put here at first, but as I thought about it, this post was really talking about potential consequences of autoimmune reactions due to foreign substances. If you can give them a read and pass it on to any one you know, I would sure appreciate it. Thanks for allowing me to share this with you here.

    More later,

    1. Hi- I visited the pursuitofhappyness blog. I hope you don’t mind me making a suggestion on your posts. You have a LOT to share and I think you should do it in shorter posts.

      People have ADD when reading things online. It’s recommended that post be arounds 350 words. Anything much more and you lose your audience (guilty).

      Besides that, when you break it up you have many more posts you can share leading to more content on your blog πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Michelle,

    It has been awhile since I have been here. I want to share something with you. I don’t know if you have an email or if you can see mine to contact me. I started a blog and am trying to network a little, but I would want to check with you first before posting it here. I tried the contact area, but I am not sure it went through. I’ll wait to hear from you before I try sending it that way. I hope you are doing well. πŸ™‚ Cheryl

  4. One last thing, but I’ll still be around. πŸ™‚ With those receipts, it goes through the skin. I guess it is really bad. The recommendation is to skip the receipt, let it be put into a bag, and use gloves if you are having to use receipts. Something else. It looks like they are attempting to ban BPA. Some alternatives in cans are just as bad, like BPS. I would use some other initials to describe what I think this is, but I am keeping it totally clean. They aren’t horrible initials.

  5. Hi there,

    I don’t think you should have to apologize myself. We need to take control of some bad things being allowed in medicine and society. I was just reading about BPA in receipts. The answers have to be sought in advance. I know this has offended some, but others were not offended as they had a different take. To all survivors, we’re on your side but with safety. Hi again Michelle! πŸ™‚

  6. Hi,

    I haven’t been around but find myself back here again. πŸ˜‰ Hi Michell. I am still trying to write my story to share it. Autoimmune issues are very serious. Those are caused as the body attacks itself in an inappropriate fashion usually a substance that it sees as foreign. As someone who has lost years of my life due to foreign substances, and lost a great deal of body function, I feel I can say this much:

    Michelle is trying to advocate for change here. I know how it feels to have catastrophic illness, and how it feels to have subsequent choices of doctors worsen a bad situation. I don’t feel whole from their treatments now and never did. I would like to see some options that are safe for women. With my illness and my mom’s history of breast cancer, I want safety addressed. Breast implants, BPA in food containers, a messed up food supply. There are answers to these things. I feel for anyone making tough calls during medical crisis. It is true you never know until you are in the situation also, That said, informing oneself in advance is a good idea. Once you are there with the doctor, it is tough to make an informed decision.

    1. Hey Cheryl-

      thank you for returning to follow up. I look forward to a day where there are more options for cancer patients requiring reconstruction.

      I mean we have non-toxic ways of dying our hair. Why not something like this for a safer tattoo?

      This is an extended conversation and obviously some people took offense to the writing of this post. However, I’m not going to apologize for writing it. Again, I was in no way disrespectful to cancer survivors and for those qho took offense, the apology is somewhere here in the comment thread. It just annoys me that there are no safer alternatives. (at least none I know of)

  7. My breasts were removed 6 months ago. I had reconstruction and had tattooing. Because of the mastectomy I have and never will feel my breasts again. The nerve endings are severed. My breasts look great but do not feel like mine. I felt fake. I would show them to close friends because they did not feel like they were a part of my body. After my tattooing I cried. I finally looked and felt like I have breast. The tattooing gave me my breast back!. Not sure why I got breast cancer. Probably what I breathe in everyday and the steroids and antibiotics and hormones and pesticides in my food. I never had ink in my body before and I got cancer so I’m not really too worried about it. I really hope you never have to comment on this from a personal point of view with knowledge of how it feels.

  8. As a breast cancer patient who had a double mastectomy, I’d like to jump in here. Losing your breasts is devasting. But we do so in hopes of saving our lives. I went through nipple reconstruction followed by tattoos in hopes of looking in the mirror one day and looking normal again. Your option is “Barbie Boobs” . . . and looking in the mirror and seeing two mounds that are missing what is needed to look and feel normal in hope of regaining our self-confidence.

    That said . .I was tattooed by someone who specializes in breast cancer patients. She was negligent and I lost the nipples, lost my skin and am stuck with nothing but scar tissue.
    I can’t have tattooing done again because of all the scar tissue. Today I meet with my plastic surgeon to see what can be done. Likely nothing.

    So yes, breast cancer took my breasts but in my case it was the tattoo artist who destroyed my life. Be very careful who you chose.

  9. You really need to research this more before you make uneducated assumptions. Walk into any tattoo shop. Or Google it. It isn’t the INK that causes the risk of infection, it is the procedure itself. There is always a risk of getting an infection with a tattoo, piercing or ANY procedure including reconstructive surgery in which you will be making any sort of wound in the body. Also I have trouble understanding your logic of the “foreign body” of the tattoo ink causing a devastating result IF THESE WOMEN JUST HAD BREAST IMPLANTS. That is a gigantic foreign body, and yet they seem to do just fine with it. Breast reconstruction is about 10000x harder on your body than a tiny little tattoo. Almost zero risk for these women. The cancer “risk” you speak of is a chemical found in some black tattoo ink, and from what I understand not all of it. You won’t be getting any thick black outlines with an areola tattoo. So I think we can safely say there is little to no risk to these women. Stop spreading fear.

    1. First of all Ms Wow, I was not addressing breast implants, nor do I suggest any woman get them. And if you want to talk about educating yourself, how about you research and find out that women DO experience problems with implants. It may not happen right away but why else would many women start removing them after years?

      Second, I’m not spreading fear. If someone is afraid, then they need to check their reasons for feeling fear. I shared my opinion on a topic which apparently I’m not the only person who feels this way about. And I certainly won’t let people like you tell me what to write about. Especially, when you aren’t paying for this here blog.

      Keep it moving and start your own blog to share YOUR OWN thoughts if you’re so passionate on the subject.

  10. I had a bilateral mastectomy in November, 2010, and two reconstructive surgeries in 2011. In January, 2012, I tattooed large flowers on my new breasts.

    Best thing I ever did.

    Tattoo ink causes cancer? So can plastic bottles. So can BPA in cans/bottles. So can birth control pills.
    There are carcinogens everywhere.

    Why did I tattoo….to take back my body. To reclaim what I lost. To feel beautiful again.

    And you know what…it worked. I no longer had to tape paper over the bottom portion of my bathroom mirror so I didn’t see my lovely four inch scars.

    I kicked cancer to the curb…and love my tattoos. I wish more doctors would offer it as an option.

    My tattoo artist did an amazing job – he cannot fathom how much he changed my life.

    1. Yes BPAs and birth control pills can cause cancer but one does not have to expose themselves to them. It’s just like one does not have to get tattoos. yes, it’s a personal choice and you made it. That’s the choice that you made. I just don’t think that it’s the best choice to introduce a foreign substance into a body that already has a weakened immune system. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion and while I can’t necessarily relate, I don’t think that I would have made the same choice.

      Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you beat cancer!

    2. I am also a bilateral mastectomy patient. Michelle, I know you keep saying you don’t want to come across as insensitive, and I beleive you. I just don’t think you are in a position to express such a serious statement. Until and unless you have expereienced the traumatic loss of a body part, you really have no basis for a statement that the ink of a tattoo is more dangerous to a woman’s body, than living with the mutilation of a mastectomy is to her mind and soul. Many women are fine with their bodies after mastectomy, choose no reconstruction whatsoever, other’s of us have the need to reclaim our bodies, to put us as close back to normal as possible. It is not vain, it is for our sanity.

      1. When did I ever say, “the ink of a tattoo is more dangerous to a woman’s body, than living with the mutilation of a mastectomy” Not ever This post was written from the point of view of not understanding why doctor’s suggest putting a foreign substance (ink is foreign to the human body) into a person’s body who has already had a compromised immune system. It’s not about why a woman chooses to undergo the procedure of breast reconstruction. I just refuse to be there isn’t another option to reconstruct that breast that is safer.

        Ultimately, I think that after experiencing such a traumatic thing as getting your breast cut off, there should be healthier options to reclaim your body that doesn’t include using the injection of ink to do so.

        Thank you for your comment and thank God you beat cancer. The more people that actually comment about this controversial topic actually helps spread hope for others who are going through the same thing.

  11. Hi there,

    I agree obviously about the autoimmune. I have over 2 autoimmune diseases now. My mom had cancer–lowered immunity and weakened body to start that allowed for the intrusive “cancer.” I think medical professionals talk like they know everything. They don’t. They count on unregulated corporations to keep us safe. The pharmaceuticals. I mean–come on other people that get offended–we are trying to figure stuff out to prevent more illness. We are empathetic. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the Henna tip. I found that info. It doesn’t look regulated either, but you say they test it. I will look for the article that discussed Henna. Perhaps people used it to tattoo. It could have had additives, etc. I know it is used on the skin and hair. I’ll bring the article if I find it. There are too many risks. I cannot recommend a tattoo to anyone, esp. those with medical illness. Thank you so much and I will be back.

    1. Hi Cheryl- I certainly understand your concerns. That’s why doctors are called practicing physicians. They practice medicine and in some cases practice aint perfect!

  12. Hi there,

    I was researching, because my sister was considering a tattoo to honor her son, who passed away (bad circumstances I will leave out). Anyway, I started to look and this industry appears largely unregulated. There are multiple risks–unreal! My mom had breast cancer, opted for a mastectomy (one breast) after I helped her research. They wanted radiation with lump removal. Based on research and the lack of spreading other than one node, I thought that wasn’t a good idea. Anyway, I decided maybe medical tattoos were safer since she was referred to an artist in Vancouver. Don’t know if it was an establishment. In fact, I read that medical tattoos are used for radiation treatment and are being removed for free by one doctor for a variety of reasons–mainly being nice. πŸ™‚ What I found amazing is that I couldn’t find much in the way of safety with “medical tattoos.” I found your site though. I understand the person above, but I feel you were sensitive wanting to open a discussion to protect women (or breast cancer survivors–there are some men). Are there regulations on medical tattoos that are different? Are they safer or different than the obvious tattoo parlor situation. I read too much and know better. I think we can all think to the 1980s, with breast implants being risky with silicone implants. I feel that (know actually), any time a foreign substance is injected, an autoimmune reaction is possible and probable on a small level at least. Worst case–really bad! I agree with you, and would like more info. Is there a safe way to tattoo I wonder. I don’t want my sister to get sick. I think, “Skip the tattoo.” I read even Henna tattooing causes issues. I wonder about “natural dyes.” I have one, and it isn’t henna. I don’t use dyes on my hair due to illness. Sorry for the lost post–I had questions and statements to make. lol! So much writing. Thanks, Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl-

      I think you said a mouthful (no pun) here: ” any time a foreign substance is injected, an autoimmune reaction is possible and probable on a small level at least. ”
      It concerns me that doctors actually recommend something that could cause a reaction. People who have had cancer have weakened immune systems in many cases so I wouldn’t expect a medical professional to recommend something with even a small risk.

      As for henna, it’s a very safe plant dye if you get it from the right place. Any henna used should NOT contain any additives (like PPD). It should be body art quality for use on hair as well. I get my henna from http://mehandi.com. They are very careful with the collection and testing of their henna dyes.

      The only reason I’d recommend against henna for someone (body art quality henna that is), is if there’s an allergy to it. That’s why it’s good to do a strand test.

      If you’re really interested in applying henna to your hair, check out Mehandi. You can also find information on the entire subject of henna at http://hennaforhair.com The two sites are affiliated. I have no connection to them other than purchasing πŸ™‚

  13. You know I go through identity crisis every now an then on that blog. I like to change it up a bit. I even added the comments back smh… so indecisive lol

  14. Wow, I would have expected women to be more sensitive. My wife just completed a bilateral mastectomy. She is having reconstruction done with nipple tattoos. All her choice.
    Then she is having flower tattoos to hide the scars from the surgery. Again her choice. No one told her to do it but she can’t look in the mirror right now. Make your own decisions about cancer if it ever enters your life. Having parts of your body removed is traumatic. She just wants to feel sexy again.
    Cancer risks from tattoos? Negligable at best.

    1. T, did you read my entire post? I said it is not my intention to come across insensitive. I was also not attacking cancer patients. My issue is with doctors that recommend procedures that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of their patients.

      Of course, it’s a personal choice. My heart goes out to your wife. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a body part removed.

  15. I find this totally ridiculous! I’ve come to realize that doctors recommend a lot which is complete b.s. and that many doctors truly have no clue when it comes to nutrition and health. These are the same doctors who recommend we follow the “food plate”, eat a low fat diet with plenty of “healthy” whole grains. On the other hand, I can understand that in theory, it might help a women cope with a devastating illness, but it’s basically like pouring more gas on the fire. Great job reporting this, Michelle.

  16. Wow Ive never heard of that before either. Just seems wrong on many levels to have that done but Whatever makes them comfortable…

    Also I worked on this all morning yesterday for you lol:

    1. Yahhhhh! I’m printing this out and when I make it I’ll let you know!
      And there you go redesigning the blog again lol. Have you changed your mind? Will you keep it?

  17. Wow. That’s not something that would even cross my mind! Why tattoo something fake on just for looks? It’s not going to make up for missing the real thing and IMO is just going to look silly. And I wouldn’t have even thought about the adding a foreign substance line of it. All in all, if it were me, I’d stick with what I have left, and leave tattoos out of it entirely–nipples or not!

    1. That’s how I feel. I’d just work with what I have left. Interesting though, the guy that they showed doing the tattoo was an artist. The nipples he did on this one woman’s breast were almost real looking. However, for safety sake I don’t think this is a good idea at all!

  18. Michelle, I have a friend who actually had both her breast removed due to cancer while in her 30’s. Months later doctors recommended the tatoo’s after reconstructive surgery. After she had them done she was devastated at how they did not make up for the real thing and then had to overcome being marred like that the rest of her life. This caused her more emotional problems than she needed. My heart goes out to these women. Society sometimes makes women feel incomplete because of certain situations and we need to look more at the heart.

    1. Kathy, I didn’t even look at it from that point of view but I’m glad you brought it out. Suppose (like in your friend’s case), the tattoo doesn’t yield the results one is looking for? That makes it even worst and then one may want to even get another procedure to get them removed.

      It’s really sad and my heart goes out to these women

      1. Hi again,

        So sorry to hear the story of Kaye’s. So hard to go through that, and then to have an incompetent provider cause that pain. I am hoping that the doctor will help. I had a friend that had something similar, not with the tattoo, and she did get help with it. As for your attention to this Michelle, I don’t know why anyone would be bothered. You are trying to inform patients and the public in a polite way. As for implants and anything in the body, it can be perceived as “foreign.” In my case, food crosses the intestines and causes that reaction. I was in so much agony from the “autoimmune” reaction, it was a nightmare. Out of the wheelchair, gluten and dairy free. I still can’t eat everything. These tattoos are unregulated. I wish that there were something safe as some women struggle with the aftermath a lot. That said, I agree with Kaye. Things can get worse and it is often too late to go back. In her case, I hope the doctor can help though. Some doctors are great in this field. Great things can happen still. We can’t accept the status quo when it makes no sense on this issue. Okay…I am off for now. Nice to see you still going.

        1. Cheryl, I couldn’t have said this better myself. I thought I was polite enough but for some reason, certain topics will always bring out rage in people. Go figure.

          I absolutely agree with you about things that are not natural to the body being considered “foreign” causing autoimmune reactions in some people. Unfortunately, you have a testimony to back that up. I have a little boy in a wheelchair. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Thank God he doesn’t have any auto-immune diseases and can eat pretty much anything. I empathize with you. I’d be in a corner rocking if I couldn’t have dairy or wheat LOL. Ok I didn’t mean to make light of it. I’m just soooooo drawn to those types of foods I don’t know what I’d do if tomorrow I found out I couldn’t eat them anymore.

          So do you eat specific gluten free brands that you like? I tried a bunch of gluten free foods from Udi’s. Love the brand. the taste is really actually good which shocked me. I always found gluten free bread to be sort of dense like wood but this brand is tasty πŸ™‚

          1. Hi there,

            I am going to write more about my diet to explain it. It is a diet, I believe, that can prevent autoimmune disease from coming on. It isn’t as bad as it sounds. I will explain why it isn’t as hard as it could be. Field trip with my kids today. I love this forum though. I will be back. πŸ™‚ Cheryl

          2. cool I look forward to reading it. Do you have a blog Cheryl?

            I wish I did have a forum on here but for now we’ll have to settle on the comments section πŸ™‚

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