Tattoos after reconstruction

Last week I had the final step in my reconstruction. When I had my mastectomy almost a year ago I decided to go with implants, I did not have enough of my own tissue for a trans flap surgery for two breasts. I also could not imagine going through such a difficult surgery. The mastectomy surgery was enough for me. So luckily I have a fantastic plastic surgeon that specializes in reconstruction and she and I decided to go with my implants. I am very happy with them. I have cleavage for the first time in my life.


After my recovery from the surgery and my chemo was finished I was cleared for the next step. Nipple reconstruction. My surgeon sat down with me and explained my options.

Option #1: To have my surgeon make a small incision of skin and tuck it under and stitch it to make the actual nipple. Along with a tattoo of the areola.

Option # 2: To just have the tattoos done and not the nipples.


These were my thoughts. When you have your nipple made it will always stick out. No matter how warm or cold you are you will have permanent “headlights”. I thought it through very thoroughly, my surgeon suggested to ball up some tissue and stick it onto my breasts and walk around for a day and see what I thought about it. I did not do this; I decided to just go with the tattoos.


Last Friday I went in for my appointment not really knowing what to expect. There is not a whole lot out there on the net about the subject. After I arrived at the breast center I was ushered into a room. I was told to put on a gown and the nurse and my surgeon came in. We talked for a minute or two and then she got out her magic marker and ruler. She told me that there were basically two sizes to go with, one smaller and one a bit larger. She measured out the smaller of the two first. I wanted my tattoos to cover some of my scars so I thought the small ones were not going to cut it. She drew on the larger size, we looked in the mirror and she looked at me from a distance, we adjusted them a bit and then we were good to go. At this time she pulled out what looked like a large paint swatch and we looked at what colors we liked. Who knew! Not me, there are a lot of possible colors. We picked out a color that would look good with my skin tone and she applied a bit of the ink to the outline she had drawn on my chest. It was the perfect color, so we were ready to go.


The nurse turned on a light that was on the wall. It was a purple neon sign in that said tattoo parlor. I thought it was a nice touch. The doctor numbed around the area with a needle, which was the most painful part. In comparison to mastectomy and chemo it was small potatoes. After she was sure I was numb she started to fill in the area with the tattooing pen-needles. Each one took about 25 minutes at the most. She did a darker color in the center to make it more realistic. I asked her if she ever imagined when she was in Medical school that she would be doing tattoos and she smiled and laughed and said absolutly not! While she worked we talked about little things, everyday things that woman talk about. She is so great and has always made me feel comfortable. Not making me feel like I am just another body or another pair of breasts.


After she finished we talked about how to care for them when I got home, how long I would need to keep bandages on then and that I needed to keep them moist so they did not scab. I was to expect a little bruising but that was it.


It was a really great experience and I am very happy with the results. I did bruise a bit, but not as much as I thought I would. I had to keep bandages on them for 4 days. I feel really good about the results and feel a bit more whole now. It is a strange thing to look at your self in the mirror and just see scars. Now I do not have to do that anymore. I am really happy about that. In my experience talking to people about breast cancer and reconstruction, not many people realize that along with your breast tissue you also loose your nipples.


I hope this post helps anyone that is wondering about this subject. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.





10 Responses to Tattoos after reconstruction

  1. francesbarrie says:

    Thank you for this post. I just finished my reconstruction and the next step is nipple reconstruction. I was planning on waiting a while, just because i am sick of surgery, but it doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I won’t wait the whole year like I planned. Good to know about the nipple being forever “at attention”, I never would have thought of that!.

  2. throwslikeagirl74 says:

    Great post! 🙂 I love the tattoo parlor thing.

  3. Lisa Doornik says:

    Thanks so much for your post! I just had my mastectomy and am a long ways from reconstruction still, but I already planned to do what you did. I didn’t want to always be “cold” all the time. This sounds like the easiest part of the whole ordeal. Thanks again!

  4. bcjenster says:

    I had the nipple reconstruction and really I only appear semi-cold. Not even enough to show through a bathing suit. lol I guess I’m only cool and not cold. :o) Will you have to go back for touch ups? I had three tattooing sessions because the color fades after a few weeks, but possibly your doctor uses a different technique? Though it sounded just like mine. Now when you get those email questionnaires that ask a bunch of random questions you can answer “yes” to the “do you have a tattoo” question. And when it asks where you can say “nipple” and really be seen as a wild woman!!

  5. sprucehillfarm says:

    Lisa, I am so glad my post helped you a bit. That was the whole reason for me for talking about the subject.

    Jen, I always knew you were cool! 🙂

    Frances, I felt the same way about it. I was really tired of surgery but this was a snap! Good luck and let me know what you decide.

  6. I never got around to the tatooing…. I still hope to get to it one day….

    My plastic surgeon created a nipple that doesn’t really stick out. I still can’t tell if it’s supposed to be this flat or if it sunk by accident….

  7. angel says:

    Well this is alot for me to think about! I will be having the double mastectomy in april or may. I am finishing my chemo first. I chose to do a lumpectomy to start with and then got some of my genetic tests back and have now decided to do a double. I don’t have a lot of detail on the surgery yet so anyone else have anything to add let me know. Thanks

  8. Cindy Lou says:

    I had a single mastectomy that made the nipple reconstruction more complicated because then you are trying to match a created nipple to a real nipple. I went for the incision-stitching approach but the stitches blew out in a few weeks. So my surgeon did it again and they pulled out gradually again. He told me that some people just have “slippery skin” and I decided that was enough. In the meantime, he did the color tattoo with a touch-up as part of both surgeries. So now I have a well-rounded, nipple-less, tan-pink color implant breast and a sagging, nippley, pink nipple breast. I was kinda upset at first but got over it. You can’t tell if I have even a regular bra or bathing suit on. I have finally got up the courage to actual undress in the YMCA three times a week and no-one says anything or stares, so I don’t think it is a big deal. I haven’t tried this pair out with an intimate boyfriend but at this point in my life, if I ever bother with a boyfriend again, a guy can head straight for the door if he has anything negative to say if I don’t throw him out the window first. Gotta be protective of my fake breast, it was a big deal getting it. And it makes for a lot of really good jokes with by girlfriends about my tattoo. So glad to see this type of info and discussion on the internet. I had a really hard time finding it during my surgeries. Go Girls!

  9. Pamela Deane says:

    Thanks so much for your post. I was recently scheduled to have the nipple reconstruction surgery and the night before my surgery my Dr called and said after some new research she felt she needed to tell me there were alot of risks of not healing for a person that has had radiation treatments. Worst case scenario I could lose my whole implant.Needless to say I was so disappointed because ever since my mastectomy I planned to do the surgery,but I didnt think this was worth the risk.She suggested a permanent makeup artist that does tattoos,so that is my next step. My concern they wouldnt look natural but I am going to investigate.My friend had the Nipple surgery and her nipples didnt protrude much so I wouldnt have minded that but after hearing the comments I dont think I would like to worry about them sticking out all the time.

  10. Chilly says:

    My first plastic surgeon said new nipples will be soft and NEVER erect enough to show through. She was ousted for “bad” behavior and I finished with another practice. Still believing her I had nipples done Nov 09 and now Feb 10 they are still showing. I don’t know how long this will last but I am not comfortable with this look. Supposed to get tattoo next week, considering a delay. Very lucky that I had no radiation or chemo and because of bi-lateral mastectomy I am the same on both sides and in good health. How can a doctor tell you nipples will NEVER show and mislead you? Wish I had seen these posts before my surgery.

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