Tattoo artist helps breast reconstruction patients heal
Adjusting to life after breast reconstruction surgery can be a struggle for many breast cancer patients, but one tattoo artist in Richmond, VA, is helping patients find some relief with a touch of ink.
Amy Black is one of the leading skin-ink artists in the Virginia capital, but the clientele inside her Trademark Tattoo parlor isn't always what one would expect. According to local news outlet WTVR, Black offers reconstructive nipple and areola tattooing, as well as breast repigmentation, in addition to the standard butterfly and tribal tattoos. Over the last two years, she has received many post-mastectomy patients in her studio, all of whom were looking for a more realistic look to their new breasts.
Some of Black's customers have expressed dissatisfaction over their post-reconstruction breasts, mostly because the nipples look too unnatural. One of Black's patients told the news source that one doctor simply "drew a circle" on her breasts to represent the nipple, which left her feeling self-conscious.
"What I bring to it from my fine art background is trying to recreate the effect of light and shadow to create a 3-D effect," Black told the news source. "The reward I get is being able to use all the talents I've been given and be able to be of service to others."
Black said it only takes her between 35 and 40 minutes to create a nipple tattoo for each breast. She charges $150 per breast for the procedure. Because many insurance companies might not cover the nipple tattoo, Black created the Pink Ink Fund to help post-mastectomy women pay for the tattoo.
Surgeons and artists working together
Many plastic surgeons, or a technician in their office, offer to draw a nipple on patients immediately following breast reconstruction surgery. However, it seems more breast cancer patients are turning to tattoo artists for more natural and personalized results. According to a recent report from The Philadelphia Inquirer, some surgeons and dermatologists have even begun recommending local tattoo artists to their patients.
Mandy Sauler, a Philadelphia-based artist who provides 3-D nipples and areola enhancement, told the news outlet that she works with plastic surgeons and their patients to create nipples and areolas that best fit the patients in size, color and overall feel.
"For people with particularly translucent skin, I've even added veins," Sauler said. "Another advantage of a properly done 3-D nipple is how it becomes a focal point on the breast that draws attention away from any scars."