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The after-effects of breast cancer present a particular challenge to patients who, having undergone successful treatment, have to adapt to living with the results of a mastectomy.
Many look to reconstructive techniques and psychiatric treatment for help, but others take a more unusual approach to dealing with the scars of surgery.
Growing numbers of women are having their scar tissue decorated with tattoos, both for aesthetic reasons and to send out strong messages about their battle against cancer. It may seem strange to some that tattooists are joining the ranks of those involved with breast cancer treatment and mammography jobs but, when it comes to post-operative recovery, tattoos are playing an increasingly important role for some.
According to cancer patients writing on Healthline, the beauty of tattoos is in itself therapeutic, a sign of positivity at a time of great stress. The decision to have scar tissue tattooed gives a woman power back over her own body, after months of giving up so much control as treatment progresses.
Tattoos can also show solidarity in the face of the disease. Ribbon and bow designs are often used and often both the cancer patient and her partner have matching tattoos. As well as signifying unity, these matching tattoos serve as a very personal reminder that cancer affects both patients and their loved ones. Of course, the tattoos stand as artworks in their own right. Although many are simple, some are utterly amazing and will have taken many, many hours to apply.
According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 50,000 new cases of breast cancer each year in Britain. Although men are affected, they make up less than 1% of the total. As more than three-quarters of patients survive for more than ten years, coping with the after-effects of treatment is a huge challenge for individuals, their families and the health service. With that in mind, turning scar tissue into an art canvas can be a cost-effective as well as beautiful way of showing that breast cancer has not stopped you from enjoying life.
Of course, scar tissue is nothing to be ashamed of, but that doesn’t make it less challenging for many, if not all, patients to accept and deal with. Tattooing, ultimately, allows a patient to say to themselves – and to the world – “Yes, I look different now and I look amazing!”