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Breast cancer tattoos: a debate

Updated on May 7, 2014

Breast Cancer Tattoos - A Debate

Researching this lens, it became apparent that controversy surrounds the choice about whether to get inked, medically or artistically, if you're a breast cancer survivor or a breast cancer awareness supporter.

I decided to make this lens a place of debate and exploration, a place for views to be respectfully stated and for questions to be asked and, hopefully, answered.

I also put myself in contact with Sasha, a professional medical and cosmetic body artist who specializes in Areola Reconstruction and the type of cosmetic and medical body art that is highlighted on this lens. She has contributed her thoughts in two of the debates below, specifically regarding how aging impacts the affects of tattooing; and additionally, on her experience of the psychological impact the artwork has on her clients. You can see her contributions below.

Also, I've linked to my favorite related Squidoo sites. Most especially recommending:

* "Chemowraps", whose ideas I find inspiring;

* "Cancer and Food", which deals with prevention in a manner that is hopeful and empowering, well researched and detailed. She doesn't know this, but I took notes and began implementing some of her ideas within 24 hours of reading.

* "The Breast Cancer Site", which has a click-a-day link, mammogram revenue support link. I also provide this link below. Please see the BigArrow below. Your click provides additional company-funded mammograms.

Finally, I've included a few provocative duel and voting modules in which I invite you to participate, diplomatically and with sensitivity, of course. Thank you in advance.

Tattoos to cover mastectomy scarring
Tattoos to cover mastectomy scarring

First of all, we should clarify some points:

1) There is a difference between ARTISTIC tattooing and MEDICAL tattooing. We will discuss that further (down below).

2) Breast cancer tattoos are of interest to

a) the SUPPORTERS of friends, family and people (in general) who suffer from the disease;

b) SURVIVORS of the disease;

c) SURVIVORS of NON-Survivors, those who have already lost a loved one to the disease.

d) SURVIVORS with who have no option of reconstructive surgery or who opt-out of reconstructive surgery.

3) According to Paul Sweetman, "The popular image of the tattooee as young, male and working-class is now increasingly outdated, as more and more men and women, of various age-groups and socio-economic backgrounds, choose to enter the tattoo studio."

Life after cancer

For all the traveling I do and the small space I live in, I prefer to collect and read books on my Kindle (which I'm hoping to upgrade to a Fire!). For this reason, the link you have here is for a Kindle e-book version.

As a survivor, should one commemorate (or redecorate) with an artistic tattoo?

Some survivors say that the radiation burns and scars left on their breast, chest and underarms are reminder enough of the ordeal they've gone through. Some are angered by the superficiality of the Pink. On the other hand, write Miliann Kang and KIatherine Jones, "Marking their bodies with tattoos helps women to feel they are reclaiming lost or violated parts of themselves - an especially important process for women healing from abuse or trauma (in Contexts, Vol. 6, Number 1, pps 42-47. ISSN 1536-5042, electronic ISSN 1537-6052. 2007 by the American Sociological Association)."

Beautifying the scars with an artistic tattoo illustrates that one has taken the Upper Hand over one's misfortune.

Beautifying the scars with an artistic tattoo illustrates that one has taken the Upper Hand over one's misfortune.

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    • spellbindingsis 5 years ago

      I think if you want to do it it's your damn body do what the hell you want to!

    • Marigold Tortelli 5 years ago

      Tattoos are an excellent way to take control over an uncontrollable situation.

    • kab 5 years ago from Upstate, NY

      If they want one, then have at it. But, what about a tattoos reaction during an MRI?

    • AnnaMKB 5 years ago

      While I don't think scars are something that need to be "hidden", I think getting tattoos can be a great idea. I've seen some hilarious ones amputees have had done, and I don't see this as being any different. It can be a psychologically healthy thing.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      As a tattoo artist who specializes in working with scars, both medically with areola tattooing as well decorative art over scars, I have seen the difference tattooing can make for women as they reclaim their bodies and lives. Art, in any form,can be powerful and this is especially true for art on the body.

      Sasha

      dragonflyink.com

    Getting a tattoo doesn't change anything. It's merely a superficial and unnecessary act of camouflage.

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      • DelfinAshley 4 years ago

        Before going for it just get the full information of the artist. Check out some before & after photographs. It possible try to contact the persons who goes through this process. But you have to go through tremendous pain during this process. But donât worry about that, there are lots of produces in the market to reduce this pain Dr Numb ( http://www.drnumb.co/ ) cream is one of these produces that helps to reduce the pain in this process.

      • scottkelley 5 years ago

        I have scars, and I have never got a tattoo. Almost all my friends and even my kids have tattoos. I am a cancer survivor and my scar is visible to everyone, on my left side of my neck. It extends from the bottom of my left ear to my Adams apple. After two years it is still numb to the touch. I have never thought to cover it up with a marking, but I think it would look even worse as I would look like a 52 year old punk, I think. Doctors really do try to make their cuts on the fold, and even though they do the scar is still there. I know it takes years for a scar to normalize if there is such a thing. But just knowing how long it takes to heal from an operation, and the feeling of the area being numb, I don't think I could handle a needle touching the area. It is hard enough for me to run a razor over the area everyday. Such a weird feeling. But if a women feels and is comfortable with it, I say go for it if it helps your mental side. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so don't ever forget how beautiful you are, just the way you are!

      Beautifully Constructed Sunglasses that Give Back!

      I specifically researched these sunglasses to add product links here to vendors that actually give towards fighting breast cancer and that take specific action towards prevention. Products that are more than just a pink tint.

      MotoGroup is an official sponsor of the National Breast Cancer Foundation and gives a portion of the proceeds of your purchase to them.

      Oakley is an active affiliate of www.youngsurvival.org. Visit the site to see for yourself. It has relevant and focused opportunities for specific education, networking, physical face-to-face activities and donations.

      As Oakley states: "Knowledge is strength. Support is hope. Awareness is vital. Visit www.youngsurvival.org for more information on the YOUNG SURVIVAL COALITION."

      One of Jeanee Lusby's restorative nipple tattoos

      One of Jeanee Lusby's restorative nipple tattoos
      One of Jeanee Lusby's restorative nipple tattoos

      After mastectomies due to breast cancer

      After mastectomies due to breast cancer
      After mastectomies due to breast cancer

      Inked Shirt

      Inked Shirt
      Inked Shirt

      I came across this picture of a woman who covered her mastectomies with tattooing.

      Does she walk around shirtless, I wonder? What is the protocol for a woman who no longer has breasts? If a big flabby guy with man boobs can mow his lawn shirtless, I would think she and her cute inked top should be able to do it too, don't you? Posted by Ann on http://www.butdoctorihatepink.com/2010_05_01_archi...

      Is a tattoo the best way to commemorate a loved one?

      Some people say a tattoo defiles the body and is a silly, unproductive way to honor a fallen loved one.

      Do you agree?

      No. I think everybody remembers each in their own way and one is as good as another.

      No. I think everybody remembers each in their own way and one is as good as another.

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        • domjohnson lm 5 years ago

          Honouring a loved one is a good enough reason to get a tattoo. Getting one because it's fashionable to get one isn't a good enough reason.

        • AnnaMKB 5 years ago

          I have to say no, because I don't think it's the "best" way, but memorial tattoos can be amazing things. Working behind the desk at a hotel, I met a couple and their toddler son who came up to get towels for the pool. The man was shirtless and had a unique tattoo over his heart. Asking about it, it turned out to be the footprints - copied from the ones taken at the hospital - of their son's twin, who died shortly after birth. They had an amazing story, and I was honoured that they were willing to share it with me.

        • catherine-salsbury 5 years ago

          I don't see it as defiling. However, many people do choose some awful looking tattoos...but it's for their personal want, their body and their symbolic understanding.

        Yes, there are certainly gentler ways to remember a loved one.

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          • scottkelley 5 years ago

            Before the big fad, I knew bikers who put tattoos on their arms. If you ever had a chance or they were willing you would hear their life story as each tattoo was a memory. Kind of like a timeline. To me that is cool and was very interesting to hear the story that went with the arm of markings.

          Ways to honor and remember your loved one

          If you disagree with the idea of a tattoo. Which of the following suggestions is a better choice? What would you prefer YOUR son or daughter, husband, father or friend to do?

          See results

          Poll: Where is the best place to put the tattoo, if pain were not an issue.

          If a man is getting a breast cancer tattoo in support of a friend or family member, his choice and style will clearly be different. For this reason, this question specifies that the wearer is a woman.

          If the wearer is a woman, where is the best place for a supporter to put the tattoo (if pain were not an issue)?

          See results

          Questions to ask yourself and your tattoo artist and-or doctor when considering getting a tattoo.

          Are you sure you want one?

          1.) How long will the process take?

          (At the least it will take about an hour, but of course, that depends on the size and detail of the tattoo you've chosen and your own pain tolerance level. You must inquire regarding your specific case.)

          2.) How long does it take to heal?

          1.) Some people have gotten a tattoo and simply not liked the result of the artwork afterward. For example, I have a cousin who asked for an Angel Wings tattoo and she hates the way they turned out. Will you live well with the results of your tattoo? Tattoos are permanent. You cannot easily take them off.

          2.) Some people have experienced discrimination in the job hiring process. Though I personally think anyone could wear a Breast Awareness tattoo with pride, other people argue otherwise and one of those not in favor may interview you one day in the future.

          On job discrimination ...

          The "Body Modification" e-zine carries an account of an operations manager at a Borders Books and Café who says about hiring tattooed employees, "We look for it. It makes things more interesting and more fun" [Contexts, Vol. 6, No 1, pp 42-47. (c) 2007 by the American Sociological Association].

          "We look for [tattoos]. It makes things more interesting and more fun." Operations manager, Borders.

          On the other hand, there is this: ...

          PERSONAL APPEARANCE - DRESS CODE (www.numericacu.com - a credit union)

          "Body Art/Tattoos

          Exposed body art/tattoos will be permitted as long as they are not placed on the face, neck, upper chest or head and the design as well as any wording is considered tasteful and non-offensive as defined by management. Employees will be allowed 2 single tattoos on arms or legs."

          "Personal Appearance Standards

          Men are expected to shave daily and/or keep facial hair neatly trimmed. Hair color, jewelry and women's makeup should be business

          appropriate. An example of an exception to hair color would be during the month of October, employee will be able to wear a pink hair extension in support of National Breast Cancer Month. There may be other causes that we want to acknowledge in the same manner as well."

          FYI NOTE: that "nonoffensive" is "as defined by management". ... Also, notice the places considered acceptable for tattoo placement.

          School or Job Discrimination

          Consider that the wrist, arms, legs, and neck are often very visible areas. Now consider your environment at school or work or in an interview for a placement you would like to receive....

          If a person wants a tattoo, should they place it in a discrete, hard-to-see spot? Or should they be open and wear it with pride? Do you think job discrimination is a valid concern?

          Yes. Discretion is best. One never knows what the future holds.

          Yes. Discretion is best. One never knows what the future holds.

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            • Marigold Tortelli 5 years ago

              While I think that people in businesses should get over tattoos and judge people based on who they are, that is not the world we live in. With my tattoos I put them in places that are easily concealed by clothes but that can be seen if I'm wearing revealing clothing (like a tank top.)

            No. People who can't understand our solidarity probably aren't worth working with anyway. Wear the support tattoo with pride!

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              • asereht1970 3 years ago

                If they wanted to have a tattoo, they should be proud place it in the spot where others could see it. Why bother having a tattoo if you won't show it?

              Impact of aging on a tattoo

              Some say that, although a tattoo looks great today, it will look awful with age, like, "smeared mascara the next morning", that the colors fade, the black outlines turn blue and bleed into the surrounding flesh so you can rarely make out what the original image was. They suggest getting a piece of breast cancer jewelry instead.

              What do you think?

              I've seen older people with tattoos and they look fine enough; no problem.

              I've seen older people with tattoos and they look fine enough; no problem.

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                • scottkelley 5 years ago

                  They do fade in color. My Dads is almost 60 years old and you can barely see it any more.

                • anonymous 5 years ago

                  There are several factors that affect if a tattoo will look good over time. First is the initial art: is it designed to last as the skin regularly regenerates (proper detail to size ratio). The tattoo pigment doesn't have a nice medium like oil or acrylic to keep it in line, so it will spread a bit over time. Good design will account for this so the art will still look good even as the tattoo changes.

                  Second, it must be well protected from uv damage. The sun more than anything, even quality of pigment, will impact how the pigment stays in the skin. Sunblock or even sun avoidance will keep colors looking good.

                  Those are the big issues, because if tattoo art is planned well and taken good care of, it will actually look good even in old age.

                  Sasha, tattoo artist

                  dragonflyink.com

                Now that you mention it, could I see some of the breast cancer jewelry options available?

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                  No comments yet.

                  Poll: Where is the most painful place to put a tattoo?

                  If you use this voting as a means to make your own decision about where to place a tattoo, DO keep in mind that pain tolerance is subjective and different for each individual.

                  Even so, it is true that a general rule of thumb for placing a tattoo is: the meatier the target area, the least painful. The corresponds with the reality that tattoos over the bone will hurt the most (i.e., top of the foot, ankle, back of the ear, etc.)

                  Colors do not affect pain level.

                  Where is the MOST painful place to put a tattoo?

                  See results

                  CafePress Tees

                  Something less permanent ...

                  Your feedback is appreciated.

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                    • asereht1970 profile image

                      asereht1970 3 years ago

                      I don't like tattoos that are so big. Small ones looks cute though. Great lens.

                    • LooLooBird profile image

                      LooLooBird 5 years ago

                      This is SO cool. Very interesting to think about, and I love the artwork you posted...tattoos, if chosen with a sound, passionate concept or story behind them, will always be beautiful to the owner.

                    • delia-delia profile image

                      Delia 5 years ago

                      Very interesting and well done lens! I'm an artist and appreciate the art of tattooing, but am not a fan of tats for myself...I have many scars and also am a cancer survivor, but it would never occur to me to have a tattoo done for it. I Praise God everyday for allowing me to survive cancer, after all He is in control. I must mention that the tattoos that enhance the body like the nipple tattoo, I can certainly see that. My comment is just my personal opinion and I don't debate what someone else wishes to do, after all it is their choice!

                    • sherridan profile image

                      sherridan 5 years ago

                      Lovely lens. I think a tattoo is a great idea to make a strong statement in this instance, and i am not a great tattoo lover. Some people are very consciouus of scars and this is a god way to disguise them (or even flag them). The tattooed nipples must make the most enormous difference to self-esteem and confidence