Breast Cancer Tattoos: What You Need To Know Before Getting Inked

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Breast cancer treatment, no matter the type or the prognosis, can feel like a blur. From diagnosis to the last day of chemo, it can be impossible to think of anything but fighting cancer.

But after treatment is over, it’s time to think about something new: healing.

For some women, getting a tattoo has been an essential part of their healing journey. Tattoos can be a way to redefine themselves. A tattoo is a permanent reminder of who you are and where you’ve been—they’re powerful symbols. And each one is as unique as the person it adorns.

It’s easy to be inspired by the stories of other women who’ve gotten beautiful post-mastectomy tattoos. But the decision to permanently ink yourself requires some careful consideration. What do you want from a tattoo? Are there risks? How do you find the right artist? Here are some things to mull over:

Why do you want a tattoo?

What are your goals and hopes for your tattoo? Once you really know what is driving your decision, you’ll be better able to make the many other decisions involved in getting inked. Do you want to remember something? Inspire yourself? Are you wanting your tattoo to cover a scar? Write down what you want your tattoo to mean, and let that purpose statement guide you through the entire process.

The most important thing is to give yourself time to think about what you want and why you want it. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into anything before you’re ready. Your tattoo will be with you for a long time, and it has to be something that will stay meaningful to you as the years go by. A tattoo should never feel rushed.

Are you concerned about side effects?

The tattoo process is relatively safe, but it can cause pain depending on where you get your tattoo. If you get reconstructed tissue tattooed, you may get away with very little pain, but ensure you are fully healed before beginning the tattoo process. Because there is a risk of infection after getting a tattoo, you should not consider one while undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.

Metallic tattoo inks may cause problems with future MRIs. Talk to your tattoo artist about this and consider getting a tattoo that does not require metallic inks.

What kind of tattoo do you want?

If you know the purpose of your tattoo and perhaps have a rough design (the tattoo artist can help with the final design), it’s time to think about what style of tattoo you want. When it comes to post-breast cancer tattoos, there are three main types:

Lingerie or Bra Tattoo

These pretty, feminine tattoos mimic an intricate bra and cover both breasts. From a distance it would probably look like you’re wearing a pretty swimsuit top. See one of our favorite lingerie tattoos here.

“NEXT” for more tattoo types and considerations

Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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