Summary: Breast reconstruction is an incredibly important step in establishing a win over cancer. And while cosmetic surgeons have relied on tattoos to reconstruct the appearance of nipples in the past, a new wave of tattoo artists are increasing the realistic quality of new nipple tattoos.
Reconstructing the Spirit
The nipple is tricky. It’s an odd little piece of flesh, if you think about it, and it’s reasonably difficult to replicate—especially using reconstructive surgery.
Breast reconstruction can be an incredibly important step in re-establishing normality after a battle with cancer. In some cases, you are quite literally putting yourself back together again—this is true in terms of your life and your identity. You choose the way to define yourself, rather than being defined by your cancer and mastectomy.
East Coast Advanced Plastic Surgery has been a leader in the breast reconstruction field for a number of years, and it founded the ECAPS Center for Breast Reconstruction in 2011. Dr. Cerio and Loghmanee founded the center to service women of New York, New Jersey, and the East Coast area, and built their practice on the idea that the individual woman should be at the center of the procedure, as no two women—and no two mastectomies—are the same.
And while reconstructive surgery is generally pretty darn good at recreating the overall shape and size of the original breast (or the desired new breast), there’s more difficulty when it comes to the nipple. Sometimes a reconstructive surgeon will opt for what’s called nipple areola complex (or NAC) tattoos, in which a nipple is tattoos onto the breast rather than reconstructed via donor tissue.
To be sure, the nipple can be reconstructed surgically, and women who wish to pursue that route have seen favorable results at ECAPS Center for Breast Reconstruction. But some women, especially those who have had radiation treatments or who have no interest in further surgery, NAC tattoos can be a more appealing option. The NAC tattoo procedure is not itself new, and has been performed by cosmetic surgeons in the past.
A New Approach
What’s new about the approach of some cosmetic surgeons is that they’re stepping out of the picture, allowing tattoo artists (or in some cases, simply their techniques) to be applied to great effect. Because the nipple is tattooed by a lifelong professional, the tattoo looks much more life-like, even down to the shadows from the nipple which create the appearance of three dimensions. The workmanship is difficult to replicate for anyone that hasn’t been tattooing for many years and takes specialized training. But it’s hard to argue with the results.
Even if this procedure isn’t for you, it’s difficult not to admire the way disparate groups can come together for a common purpose. Breast reconstruction can help a woman feel whole again, and it could be the difference between surviving cancer and beating cancer.
Don’t hesitate to learn more about breast reconstruction surgery in your area, as it’s still an emerging field. Make a difference someone you know, or to yourself.