Mastectomy Tattoos Offer New Beginning

By Colleen Schrappen
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As more cancer patients do their own research and become better informed about post-surgery options, a growing number of women are opting for mastectomy tattoos after breast cancer surgery.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Kerry Soraci’s recent tattoo client did not come to Iron Age Studios to get trendy body art. No Bible verse scrolled across the rib cage or Japanese symbol inked on the ankle.

In fact, until a few weeks ago, the 66-year-old grandmother never thought she would get a tattoo, much less one that stretched across her breast. But the cancer survivor decided four years after her diagnosis and two years after breast reconstruction that she was ready to quit undressing in the dark.

Soraci, 49, first tattooed a mastectomy patient more than 20 years ago. Several years ago, the demand started to grow. Now she works with three or four survivors a month.

That increase is due, in part, to cancer patients doing their own research and becoming better informed about post-surgery options, said Dr. Theresa Schwartz, a breast surgeon who works out of St. Louis University Hospital.

And though the incidences of invasive breast cancer have stabilized in the past few years — about 247,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2016 — mastectomies are on the rise.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than a third of women with early-stage breast cancer opt to have a mastectomy. And the number of women who choose to have a healthy breast removed as a preventive measure has tripled in the past decade.

After a patient has healed from the surgery, Schwartz said, she can remain flat-chested or undergo breast reconstruction.

Then, if the nipple and areola have been removed, the woman can decide whether she wants to get a tattoo to mimic the look. Or she may prefer something artistic to create a new appearance.

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