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New nipple tattoo service for breast surgery patients at Derby Hospitals

 

Breast cancer patients at the Royal Derby Hospital who have had reconstructive surgery can now opt to have a finishing touch to their treatment – thanks to the generosity of participants in last year’s Ashbourne Breast Cancer fund-raising walk.

The Ashbourne Breast Cancer Walk was dreamed up last year by two friends from Ashbourne who wanted to raise money to help battle breast cancer. The walk inspired nearly 800 people to walk the circumference of Carsington Water raising around £9,500 for the breast care unit at the Royal Derby Hospital.

The money raised has provided the breast care unit with the money to buy a micro-pigmentation (tattoo) machine which inserts coloured pigments just beneath the skin's surface.

Now for the first time, technicians are able to tattoo a nipple onto the new breast of a patient who has had reconstructive surgery following mastectomy. This is usually done under local anaesthetic cream and the procedure takes 30-40 minutes.

The machine, which is operated by hand, has a handset for the two different types of needle used to push the tattoo pigment – of a similar consistency to children’s poster paint - into the breast. The process is essentially the same as that followed by a commercial tattooist.

During a mastectomy the whole breast is removed, usually including the nipple. However, for some ladies it may be possible to keep the nipple if they are having all the breast tissue removed with immediate reconstruction. For some ladies it is not possible to keep the nipple if there is any possibility that the nipple or the surrounding tissue contains cancer cells. Many women find that the recreation of the nippleafter breast reconstructionrestores body image as well asimproving the cosmetic appearance of the breast and enhances their quality of life.

Consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon Miss Carol-Ann Courtney said: “The nipple tattoo procedure is very simple and can be done as an outpatient, but does require a little artistic ability on the part of the operator.

“We try to match the pigment to the colour of the nipple on the other side, but then we make it slightly darker because the tattoo will fade in time. Essentially the needles on the vibrating head of the machine push the pigment into the top layer of the skin and you keep going until the whole area is coloured. It will then scab over in exactly the same process as a real tattoo.

“By listening to what our patients wanted, the purchase of this piece of equipment enables us to offer a full service from mastectomy to completed reconstruction in house and support our patients throughout the whole of their journey without having to send them to another hospital at the last stage of their treatment. For our ladies this can mark the end of a long journey and helps them to feel complete again, and that is wonderful.

“This is a fantastic gesture from the Ashbourne ladies and we already have a list of patients waiting to put it to good use.”

Ends

 For more information contact:

Liz Smith

Communications Officer

Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Tel: 01332 785778

liz.smith@derbyhospitals.nhs.uk

Notes to editors:

Micro-pigmentation (tattooing) after breast reconstruction can give the reconstructed nipple a very good appearance. If the nipple hasn’t been reconstructed, tattooing can be used to get the effect of a nipple and areola on the breast.

It is usually done under local anaesthetic cream and the procedure usually takes 30–40 minutes.

A semi-permanent pigment is injected under sterile conditions to prevent infection. The aim is to match the colour of the nipple and areola of your natural breast. The amount injected will vary slightly from person to person to give the best appearance. Sometimes the tattooing procedure needs to be repeated to give the best result. A couple of coatings usually lasts approximately 18 months to two years.

 The Ashbourne Breast Cancer Walk 2011 has raised a further £13,000 to provide vital equipment for breast cancer patients at the Royal Derby Hospital. We are now in a position to offer a full service from mastectomy to completed reconstruction in house and support our patients throughout the whole of their journey without having to send them to another hospital at the last stage of their treatment.