Nipple tattoos after breast cancer surgery

Breast care nurse specialist Sarah Page setting up her tattoo equipment

Supporting patients is at the core of our work, providing funding for specialist services and additional comforts that complement existing NHS-funded services.

Rebuilding self-confidence can be a major challenge for some women recovering from breast cancer, particularly if their treatment has left scars. Patients who have undergone breast mastectomies and reconstructions are offered highly skilled tattooing to help create realistic 3D nipples and areolas. This service, offered at our breast cancer centre in St Albans City hospital, is spearheaded by breast care nurse specialist Sarah Page.

We had funded her original training six years ago, and this year provided additional funding so she could attend a further masterclass in medical micropigmentation. Sarah was keen to increase her knowledge and skills to improve this much-appreciated service, as many patients say that it helps them adjust to their post-surgery body image.

Medical micropigmentation of the reconstructed nipple/areola complex is often the final stage of breast reconstruction. Qualitative studies suggest that this tattooing enhances patient satisfaction with their breast reconstruction. Some women describe it as the ‘icing on the cake’ and report that it helps them restore their sense of beauty, self-image and confidence, and makes them feel somewhat whole again.

Following tattooing patients have told Sarah that they can move on from the cancer experience and feel comfortable with themselves again. The tattoos help to camouflage scars and, in some cases, make the breast look a bit more shapely where they may be slightly misshapen due to surgeries. 

“This is a unique service which isn’t common to other breast units. It has excellent feedback and an ever-increasing waiting list. The patients say that they feel more relaxed coming to the breast unit, which is already known to them and provides them with a safe, caring environment”

Sarah Page, breast care nurse specialist
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