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Radiation Tattoos for Breast Cancer’s
JMB
8 Posts
Diagnosed in July with a partial mastectomy in Aug. turned out to be borderline for chemo so radiation first and then hormone treatment.
I was keeping all this together and managing my own emotions as well as my family who seem to want to be assured, I was OK.

But when I went to the radiation mapping appointment and then after all that discomfort, she said she was going to do the tattoos and I needed five of them - went back to the change room and sat there for a half an hour and cried. I think it was just the thought of my breast already being marred with scars, even though the reconstruction turned out pretty good, and now I have these tattoos, which are permanent reminder of this horrible journey. Soon as the skin heals after radiation I’m getting them removed. I still struggle to understand why there isn’t a better way of doing this. I appreciate the technology. The radiation machine requires the tattoos in order to ensure that the area is treated the exact same way, but for me personally, I found it degrading and demoralizing and extremely upsetting . When I questioned the technician about the tattoos, she said to me this is just the way it’s done - it’s done this way everywhere in Ontario. I think I actually was mad at myself that I didn’t do more research before the appointment because prior to all the other appointments I have done a lot of research and had a lot of questions. Angry at myself for not being more prepared. Perhaps I should’ve rescheduled until I did the research and felt that I understood everything in more detail.

thank you for listening. Anybody else out there have the same experience or reaction?
13 Replies
Runner Girl
3137 Posts

@JMB
It is a difficult process indeed.

I looked at my 4 tattoo dots as what allowed me to become one with the radiation machine that was going to play a role in keeping me alive. They go with the nasty lumpectomy scar I wear that shows the battle I had to fight for my life. I wear them all proudly now, 4 years later.

karen1230
9 Posts

@JMB I didn’t know the tattoos were permanent, I haven’t got as far as radiation yet. I think your reaction is perfectly understandable. We all get to a point where enough is enough. It also sounds like you’re trying to emotionally support your family, which is another burden on you. I was very happy to find this group, as it’s a supportive place to vent that doesn’t involve your family and friends, who so badly want you to be ok. I find my mental health struggles around that too. I don’t want to let them down by not being “ok”! So, all that to say, I hear you, I feel you, I get you. You’re not alone.

JMB
8 Posts

@karen1230
Thank you for your response and kind words. Found it very comforting.

JMB
8 Posts

@Runner Girl thank you for your response and insights. Personally I want to close this chapter and the physical marks are not something I want as a reminder.
I do take comfort from your comments that the tattoos is the connection to the machine that can save my life.

Runner Girl
3137 Posts

@JMB
I'm not sure if you know what the nature of the tattoo's is, but mine at least, are just 4 tiny dots. One on each side and 2 down the middle. They are no bigger than a pinhead.

Whitelilies
2656 Posts

@JMB Hello,..please know that I too have 4 small dots (Colon Cancer/radiation)……yes no larger than a pin-head…..I had little knowledge of what is to be? as I entered appt after appt….I just followed all instructions……One Nurse shared with me…that the High Power Beams of Machine, are directed “pointed” at the “dots” to ensure exact and precise measurements/strength etc (I am no Doc !!)

I have heard of some folks, who may later down the road, turn the “dot” into a small pretty “tattoo/flower of your choice”…..a Blossom of sorts!

Embrace the “dot”…….to help you!!

Warmly

Whitelilies

#The Dot

JMB
8 Posts

@Runner Girli’m not sure if I had a new technician, but mine are certainly bigger than a pinhead, especially the two on my chest bone between my breasts. That’s why these are coming off because you can see them when you wear a bathing suit or lower top.

@JMB
I understand your feelings on this. In fact it was a perspective I hadn't really thought of but I can see how it is “just one more thing”. I am in BC, I had my radiation in 2011. I got three tats. The darkest one is in between the breasts. Recently a local tattoo removal place offered free removal for cancer patients. I went twice - she assured me it wouldn't take more than 2. It still shows albeit it is lighter. I don't mind them. The other two were smaller but they were done by a different person. There is a way to be more careful when doing them.

I ended up getting a real tattoo a year or so after treatment so that they would not be my only tattoo legacy 😊

Wishing you well

Lianne

Runner Girl
3137 Posts

@JMB
Oh my, I can see why you'd want to remove them then. Mine are hardly noticeable. Wonder why they made them so big.

Essjay
2156 Posts

@JMB I didn’t really have a negative reaction, it was just part of the treatment and I was too busy coping with neuropathy from chemo to worry about them.
My body has multiple scars - both knees have had two big surgeries, I’ve had my appendix removed, I’ve had a quarter of one breast removed, I have acne scars - scars from life…

However, I do feel like when we are told what treatment we will have there is no way to get across the long term impacts of treatment. They tell us the risks of things but not what they feel like. For example, I was warned about neuropathy but it wasn’t something I could do much about and I didn’t know how it would feel or affect me.
I had two little tattoos - they are kind of lost in the moles on my body and smaller than the moles. In the grand scheme of things they are not what I worry about…

Have you started radiation yet? How is it going?

MommyT
144 Posts
I had 3 tattoos for lung cancer radiation. When I got the 3 small dots, my daughters told me I was going rogue - gave me a bit of a giggle, as I've never had any tattoos. I think what was worse than the tattoos was when I had to shave my head after my first set of chemo. That's when my mind acknowledged that I had cancer. The tattoos don't bother me too much now ... it's just like a freckle.
All the best.
MerBear
1 Posts

@JMB
I got my tattoos on Thursday. I was expecting this but to be honest I came home and fell apart. This made it so real- I had surgery- lumpectomy - margins were not clear so had to undergo another. I was expecting the scar- I knew about the tattoos but getting them was for some reason was more devastating to me. So yes - I understand your reaction. Its like enough all ready.

Am not sure as yet if I will wear them as a badge of courage or not. I am definitely going to take advantage of speaking with a social worker about my emotions and take it from there. Take care!

Cyf
60 Posts

@JMB I had some tears streaming down the sides of my face during that whole radiation mapping process. First, the whole set up is intimidating, honestly, even though the technicians are wonderful. Secondly, I felt like I'd been through so much that the poke of the tattoo was enough to put me over the edge. The whole radiation process ended up being totally fine. I wish you the best!

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