Women are turning their breast surgery scars into stunning works of art with mastectomy tattoos

Mastectomy tattoos

Mastectomies save lives but they also leave physical – and psychological – scars. Survivors traditionally have had to choose between living with those scars, or having a breast reconstruction.

But some breast cancer survivors are choosing a third option – adorning their scarred chests with elaborate and colourful tattoos to transform what can often be a landscape of pain into something beautiful and unique.

Also known as a ‘tittoo’, this popular trend is helping women to emotionally heal and feel confident with their new bodies.

Should I get a mastectomy tattoo?

Before you consider getting a mastectomy tattoo, ensure your body can handle it. Tattoos create huge wounds, so your body and immune system will need some time to recover after your mastectomy before confronting a healing tattoo. Consult your doctor or medical professional for advice.

Mastectomy tattoos vs nipple tattoos

Artistic tattoos shouldn’t be confused with nipple and areola tattooing. Nipple and areola tattooing are procedures performed by a specially trained doctor or nurse. These tattoos involve colouring the skin using micro-pigmentation – in a way that’s similar to tattooing. This procedure is usually done after breast reconstruction.

Popular artistic mastectomy tattoo designs include flowers, birds in flight, jewels, geometric designs, motivational quotes and powerful  animals or mythological creatures.

In the States, an organisation called P.ink helps women who have undergone breast surgery find a tattoo artist in their local area. P.ink Day started in in 2013 in Brooklyn, where, with the help of crowd-funding, 10 women with mastectomy scars were able to have tattoos completed by talented tattooists. From there, in 2015, 45 women were able to get their tattoos done. The all-volunteer organisation continues to help breast cancer survivors find their perfect tattoo.

Kari Hitchcock approached P.ink after having a double mastectomy. She opted for a design of flying birds and a dandelion blowing in the wind.“When I saw my tattoo, I was so happy. Now I don’t see the scars. Yes, they are still there, but the beautiful art I have now eclipsed them and I smile every time I see it,” she said.

Izabelle Magallanes decided she wanted cherry blossom flowers across her chest after her breast surgery. After her tattoo was complete, she said: “The final product not only captured my wishes but fulfilled my desire to let cancer know that I had the last say-so. I later learned that Japanese fighter pilots painted cherry blossoms on their airships. It was believed that the souls of the fallen soldiers were reincarnated in the cherry blossom: representation of eternal life. How appropriate.”

David Allen is a well-known tattooist and his pretty botanical mastectomy designs are high in demand. Talking about why he loves creating mastectomy tattoos, he said: “What was clinical became beautiful again… we turn sterile into sensual.”

The first time a breast cancer survivor asked Allen to tattoo her chest, the Chicago-based artist refused. He knew the skin had gone through a lot during the surgery to remove the breasts, called a mastectomy, and he was hesitant about using needles on such a sensitive area. But the woman stayed on him for six months, until he finally caved.

“It was transformative. It was pretty overwhelming,” said Allen. “It’s not often that you get to use your art to help, to transform someone.”

That was about a decade ago. Since then, Allen has refined his technique and used his tattoos to transform a sense of disfigurement a lot of women feel into feelings of beauty.

Tattooing over mastectomy scar tissue

Most tattoo artists will incorporate any surgical scar into the design and shape of the tattoo, rather than actually inject ink into it. This is because scar tissue is different to normal skin and less porous meaning the colour and definition of the ink can be affected.

20 beautiful mastectomy tattoo pictures

(Please note: These photos do contain some nudity and may not be appropriate around kids or at work.)

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Ставим ❤️девушка достойна этого) 💕Глядя на эту работу можно подумать , что это очередная красивая работа с магнолией, но здесь очень тяжелая и долгая история про одну невероятно сильную девушку! Хочу сказать ей большое спасибо, что разрешила рассказать свою историю, ведь это может помочь не одной девушке с подобной проблемой… У Елены обнаружили рак груди, после чего была удалена молочная железа , далее ряд долгих и сложных операций, в следствие чего девушка избавилась от страшного диагноза, а в память ей остался огромный шрам от подмышки до солнечного сплетения…. в общем это очень тяжело для любого человека, особенно если это красивая девушка…. Но мы справились с проблемой, спрятав шрам в ветку магнолии! Главное не бояться и знать, что все можно поправить, всегда есть выходы из сложных ситуаций. Я счастлива, что помогла избавится от огромного стеснения и комплекса, спасибо!

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I loved hanging out with @horror_cosmic and @daynadono This picture truly shows the joy of this magical day Thank you @inkedmag and @sophyholland for this amazing opportunity with these powerful women. Check out the Inked for a cause edition of Inked Magazine coming in October. #mastectomy #mastectomytattoo #doublemastectomy #mastectomie #mastectomia #mastektomi #mastektomie #mastectomi #breastcancer #brca #cancersurvivor #cancerwarrior #cancersucks #tramflap #cancer #fuckcancer #scarcoverup #breastcancertattoo #hereditarycancer #scarcoveruptattoo #genetictesting #montreal #breastcancersurvivor #cancersurvivor #tattoo #malebreastcancer #breasttattoo #nippletattoo #montreal #cancerdusein

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•Battle scars • Mastectomy is especially a painful ordeal. Some surgeries require the removal of the nipples or even the whole breasts, and they all leave scars, both on the chest and the soul. It is difficult to look at yourself in the mirror and don't recognize your body anymore. But breast cancer survivors are tough women. They fought and won, and now, to overcome their scars, they can count on the help of tattoo artists. Where plastic surgery often fails, tattoo artists can give a helpful hand by tattooing nipples with 3D effects and pieces of art giving their femininity, beauty and self confidence back to these gorgeous women. We admire these women . #iamprojectpink #findacure #cancersucks #mastectomytattoo

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#surviver #fuckcancer #masectomytattoo #awesomecustomer

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We provide areola tattoos for women who have had mastectomies as the result of breast cancer, but sometimes something more is needed to show that there's beauty at the end of the road. Here is an example of some Mackintosh inspired roses on a survivor by @austinjevans #art #fineart #breastcancer #breastcancersurvivor #breastcancertattoo #mackintoshroses #mackintosh #mastectomy #mastectomytattoo #artist #fineartist #tattoo #tattoos #tattooist #tattooartist #tattoolife #tattooed #ink #fusionink #inked #supportgoodtattooers #transformationgallery @evolvedmag @art_collective_mag @tattooculturemagazine @the_inkmasters @art_spotlight @art_sanity @artfido @prophetsandpoets

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Find more mastectomy tattoo inspiration on our Pinterest Board

If you or a loved one needs breast surgery as part of cancer treatment, you can read our Mastectomy Guide for more information. We also have a great selection of mastectomy products for you to explore.