Nurses in Yorkshire have been trained in the art of nipple tattooing to help breast cancer patients 'feel complete' after undergoing surgery.
Charity Bosom Friends, which supports cancer patients, has funded the training for two staff at the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Breast care nurse specialist Charlotte Ward and plastic surgery trauma sister Tammy Bingham will now be taking over the service, helping women who have been affected by breast cancer.
Miss Ward said: “Nipple tattooing delivers the ‘finishing touch’ for our patients who have had reconstructive surgery after breast cancer and is carried out after the breast has had time to heal.
“Instead of using tissue to rebuild a nipple and areolus, women can choose to have these vital structures tattooed. Alternatively, a nipple can be reconstructed with local tissue and then only the areolus tattooed.
“Nipple tattoos are similar to real tattoos in that we use semi-permanent dye inserted into the skin. The finished tattoo is incredibly realistic and our patients are delighted with the results as it makes them feel complete.
“It’s a really important part of the patient’s recovery and, as health professionals, gives us valuable, one-to-one time with the women in the final stage of their treatment. Nipple tattooing helps to give patients their life back and reinstates body confidence once again.”
Around 50 patients a year have this treatment and consultant breast reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon, Andrew Williams, believes it is an absolutely vital service.
He added that he was delighted that the Trust now has not one but two nurses proficient in nipple tattooing as previously this was a skill that had been historically performed by doctors.
Mr Williams added: “To reconstruct a breast you have to reconstitute every single part of the breast and it has to be appropriate to each individual patient’s body habitus, as well as being a match to the other breast.
"A nipple and an areolus are an essential part of any breast reconstruction and the tattoos are literally the ‘finishing touches’ to a patient’s journey with us.
“It’s absolutely vital that the NHS provides this service as part of breast reconstruction following a cancer diagnosis, as women often get very down and many can’t even look at their bodies in the mirror, yet when they get their nipple tattooed, it’s as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders and you see them smile again which is fantastic.”