Tattoos and breast cancer: Choosing the right artist

This is an art form that has come a long way in recent years. Some artists have become very skilled.

For women who have undergone a mastectomy and opted for reconstructive surgery, the final step is creating areolas and nipples that appear real.
For women who have undergone a mastectomy and opted for reconstructive surgery, the final step is creating areolas and nipples that appear real.
Foto: DixieBelleCupcakeCafe via flickr CCL

For women who have undergone a mastectomy and opted for reconstructive surgery, the final step is creating areolas and nipples that appear real. Your doctor has likely gone over all the options currently available, one of which is tattoos.

This is an art form that has come a long way in recent years, and some artists have become skilled at creating them in such a way as to make them appear 3-D. Fortunately, finding a qualified artist that’s capable of this doesn’t have to be as daunting as everything else you’ve experienced so far. Here are some things to consider when looking for a qualified tattoo artist.

Research

Before you jump into this with both feet, do some research in your area. Tattoos are permanent, so you want them done right. If you don’t know anyone personally, almost any experienced and reputable tattoo artist has a website.

You can also try asking family and friends for referrals, or breast cancer resources in your area. Don’t ever take someone’s word on an artist’s work, you personally need to see examples of it yourself, either in person or through photographs. Reputable artists will have a portfolio. If they don’t, go somewhere else.

Consultation

Once you’ve narrowed it down, start scheduling consultations. Don’t be embarrassed or uncomfortable. The staff and artists at tattoo studios field inquiries in connection with this subject fairly regularly. A consultation will provide you with the opportunity to check out their shop and ensure that they meet all state or local requirements for their profession and that the environment is clean and friendly, as well as investigating examples of the quality of their work.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out whether they have a room that affords privacy for the actual procedure if you’re modest. Make sure they use new, individually wrapped needles with each customer; that ink is used on a one-time basis; and that they spore-test their autoclave (a device for sterilizing equipment). If they do, they will have certificates to prove it. A consultation should last between 15 minutes and a half hour, and they’re usually free.

Comfort zone

As with any professional relationship, emotional comfort is key. You likely already look for comfort in anyone you’re considering hiring, and it shouldn’t be any different in this situation. Each of us has a little inner voice that tells us whether to stay or go. Listen to it. If you don’t get a good feeling from a prospective doctor, dentist, accountant, or even a plumber, you move on. The same applies here. If you’re not comfortable, try elsewhere.

Green light

Going on the assumption you’ve been given the green light from both your doctor and your artist that the skin and any resulting scarring are healed sufficiently to proceed, your appointment will be scheduled. Your artist will have gone over everything with you as far as what to expect in advance. You should have been given a price and an approximation on time involved. The day of your appointment, remember to eat a light meal and dress comfortably before arriving.