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**Radiation tatoo removal** What do you think?

taleena's picture
taleena
Posts: 1612
Joined: May 2009

October 27th marked my one year anniversary of completing radiation therapy. I still have tan lines to the breast... looks funny to me but hubby says he doesn't really notice it... that's funny because he says he doesn't notice when I look like cr*p either...always beautiful to him...lol what a guy...

This last October during BC awareness month one of the local lazer companies, ones that do cosmetic treatments, was offering free radiation tatoo removals for breast cancer patience. I found this out from one of the mothers on my daughter/nieces volleyball team. She even gave me the number... For several weeks later each time I saw her she asked if I had called them... the answer was no, not yet.

To be honest I'm not sure how I feel about that... part of me thinks hey, that's pretty cool... I can get them removed... and the other part of me thinks wait a minute those are my battle scars... a reminder of my inner strength... is that silly or what????

I had to have a "stress test" recently and the nurse gave me one of those "yea right looks" when I told her I was still in treatment for bc... then as she is hooking up the little sticker things they place all over you she says in a surprised tone "oh, I guess you have had bc, I was looking for your radiation tatoos... I don't often see younger women who have bc"... I thought are you kinding me??? Why in Gods name would anyone claim to be in treatment for bc who wasn't...?? Then I thought, so, if I would have had them removed would she have thought I was lieing???? Good grief woman read my chart!!!

Okay.. the last paragraph was just me venting ... about ignorant people making ignorant comments!!! See even over a year later people open their mouth and you want to put their foot in it!! So, what are your thoughts??? I'm curious if given the option would you have them removed??

Hugs,
~T

chenheart's picture
chenheart
Posts: 5180
Joined: Apr 2003

I was so intrigued by your post~ I am not a fan of tattoos for myriad reasons, and hated that I was getting my body "tatted" for radiation! I was therefore pleased that they were so, so, so tiny! If I had to find them today, to prove something to someone, I just know I couldn't! They were tinier than my tiniest freckle, only visible when they were "brand new."
I went and looked after reading your post, and nope, I can't find my tattoos! So, I guess I would not be a candidate for removal! I hope they will never have to serve as proof of BC!Oh wait, I didn't have reconstructive surgery, so rats! I guess it would be obvious....

Let us know what you decide!

Hugs,
Chen♥

taleena's picture
taleena
Posts: 1612
Joined: May 2009

You know, over 1/3 of my left breast is missing, scarred you would have thought that would have been an indication that I was telling the truth... did she think it was an experiment gone wrong???? Hubby said if she would have been a guy he would have thought about decking her... lol... I still can and do see mine... who knows maybe a few years from now they'll be less visable...

Rague
Posts: 3660
Joined: Aug 2009

I'm not a tattoo fan either - for a lot of reasons for myself. Somehow when I heard that had to do tats for rads, I decided that they would big 'X's or crosses at least an inch big. I have no idea how I came up with that but I did and had finally resigned myslef to it. I never asked about the size. "Suprise, Suprise, Suprise" (in Gomer Pyle accent) when all i got was 4 small dots. First few days of Feb will be a year since done - 1 left with the rad burns - 2 are in stages of fading and 1 looks as bright as it ever did.

KathiM's picture
KathiM
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Instead, had reference lines drawn on with sharpies...it was a bit of a pain...after showers or baths, they would need to be 'redrawn'...

So now, no, I don't have them....BUT, I have enough physical scars to 'prove' my membership...and I would be, as you were, VERY insulted if someone doubted my word!!!!! (and, yes, sadly, people will pose as cancer survivors that are not...many times to scam money from people...my stepson fell for it this year...EBay...an ovarian cancer survivor..he donated an untold amount in my name as my Christmas present...).

Lol, that year, I should have invested in Sharpies!!!!

Hugs, Kathi

taleena's picture
taleena
Posts: 1612
Joined: May 2009

wow a sharpie... I didn't know that we could opt out of the tat's... interesting... and having to redraw.. I guess that would have been a pain... Kathi I would love to get my hands on someone who would "pose" as a cancer survivor.... some people UNBELIVABLE!!!

KathiM's picture
KathiM
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Each treatment, they would be checked for sharpness...and, I was sent home with a sharpie to have my daughter redraw for me...since I couldn't see 'behind' me...lol...Kristy and I still laugh about how much she 'really' knows her mom!!!!!!

The danger in drawing is that the techs can take some artistic license...lol...One of the sessions, I actually asked if the tech was illustrating the Sistine Chapel on my booty!!!

Hugs, Kathi

Marcia527's picture
Marcia527
Posts: 2748
Joined: Jul 2006

Can't find my tattoos either. I didn't have reconstruction so it is obvious I had a mastectomy. I guess it's up to you but I think your inner self shines through and blinds everyone to such a tiny thing like a dot. Even if they could see it.

taleena's picture
taleena
Posts: 1612
Joined: May 2009

Thanks Marcia... they really are just tiny "freckle" looking things... and truth be told, I'm a little leary of lazers anyway!!

Heatherbelle's picture
Heatherbelle
Posts: 1226
Joined: Jun 2010

My 2 cents - I am moderately tattooed - I have 10 & a few are larger pieces, all professional & quite beautiful (if I do say so myself..).
Tattoo removal is alot more painful and expensive than getting the tattoo itself. Since the person is offering it for free, the money isn't an issue, but I've gor friends who've gone through the tattoo removal process & also friends who actually do the tattoo removal & they've told me it's pretty painful. For regular tattoos usually they have to go over the tattoo a few times - I didn't have radiation so I didn't get the tattoos but my Aunt did when she had radiation from lung cancer, they probably would not require going over more than once, though, so if you decided to have them removed it probably would be a one-time thing.
For me personally, I wouldn't have them removed, but I would more than likely get them covered up with a bigger tattoo ;)
This is a little off subject but my tattoo artist is actually going to tattoo my areolas after I have my nipple reconstruction done in a few months. My plastic surgeon's assistant is the one who does the tattooing in the office, but basically all she does is shade the area in. I've seen some pictures of really good 3-d areola tattoos & asked him if he'd be comfortable doing them for me. I think before the tattoos, I'm having my plastic surgeon "map out" and draw the area in, and then go to my tattoo guy & getting the tattoo.

*hugs*
Heather

sparky51's picture
sparky51
Posts: 37
Joined: Dec 2010

I have quite a few tattoos....19 to be exact. When they were tattooing me for radiation I asked them if they could make it a little fancy to go with my other tattoos.....the tech said he would have if he had any artistic talent. I don't really notice the radiation tattos as a couple of them blend in with my freckles.

Bella Luna's picture
Bella Luna
Posts: 1579
Joined: Aug 2009

It's a personal choice. Whatever you decide is ok. In my case, I see my two tattoo marks as mini constellations. I don't have any tattoos on my body and, so, these two marks were my first induction to ink. I also have a semicircular scar on my right breast from my two lumpectomies and a cooper tone tan. They don't bother me as much. That's just me. Sister T... do whatever floats your boat!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
BL

Akiss4me's picture
Akiss4me
Posts: 2192
Joined: May 2009

LOL, ok, I admit, I had to go look after reading your post and yep, there they were. Had totally forgotten about them till now (thats how un-noticable they are!). But then a wave of feelings came over me that brought the whole experience to the forefront and Wham! Lots of memories started to explode in my head that I thought I had pushed way, way, way to the bottom of the pile.
My conclusion....(as I stared at them a good 10 minutes), I like my tats! They are a faint reminder to me (that I am sure only I notice) of the courage I have and all that I came through. When I am doubting myself, I can always look in the mirror and 'see' what a warrior I am. If I never did anything right in my life, I did get through the worse time of my life!
So I think I will keep them and wear them with honor....
But I am soooooo willing to give away some of this fat!!!! Do they have fat removal? Never mind, I think they call that liposuction. Now there's a thought! Offer free fat removal to cancer patients!
Pammy

SIROD's picture
SIROD
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

If you "Google" Radiation Tattoo Removal you will find many web pages on this topic.

It basically states they should be left as a permanent map of where you have had radiation. You never know if you might in the future needs this information. More radiation is a real possibility for anyone who has had breast cancer. Paper and computer records can be lost. The ones left on your body won't be unless you remove them.

They are so small, I can't imagine anyone so vain as to be bothered by them. The stress test technician was an idiot. All the hoopla of Pink October should have made known the fact that breast cancer can happen at any age 10 to 100 years. It could have been a fact that this knowledge once was unknown, not now. Any woman in the health care field should know this fact.

My opinion, keep them.

SIROD

Rague
Posts: 3660
Joined: Aug 2009

1 of my tattoos is gone - I did not have it removed - the burns from rads did. 2 others have faded a lot in almost a year, again I did nothing to them.

My Dr told me that there could not be any more radiation to that area in the future.

Boppy_of_6's picture
Boppy_of_6
Posts: 1138
Joined: Apr 2010

I did 30 rounds of rads. I also had the marks with sharpies or paint pens. They remarked me as needed and always a heavier marking on Fridays to last till Monday.They covered the marks with little adhesive stickers sorta like a bandaid just no gauze They just told me not to scrub the area when I bathed or showered, which later into rads I did not want to scrub, to tender. I just applied my creams around the marks. God Bless
(((Hugs))) Janice

TraciInLA's picture
TraciInLA
Posts: 1996
Joined: Jul 2009

...sitting in front of my computer staring at my cleavage....My girlfriend thinks I've lost it!

I have 3 tiny blue tattoos, all the size of a pen point. 2 are so far over on my sides that I have to look in a mirror and squint real hard to see them, but the 3rd is dead center of my chest, just below my cleavage -- I just look straight down, and there it is. Mine don't seem to have faded or changed in any way since I finished radiation. I also still have a faint "Coppertone tan" outline of the treatment field on my chest, but that has faded considerably.

Next week will be one year since I finished radiation -- as an aside, at my follow-up appointment a few days ago, my radiation oncologist burst into the exam room with a cheery "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!", which I thought was very sweet.

At first, I hated seeing that little blue dot every morning in the shower or when I was dressing, but it's just become a part of me now, and I rarely even notice it anymore.

Taleena, it's NOT silly to think of the tattoos as your "battle scars"! If I were going to do anything about my tattoo, I wouldn't choose to have it removed, but would instead have a tattoo artist turn it into something cool -- some kind of badge of honor of what I had accomplished, my "inner strength," as you said. In reality, though, I'm WAY too much of a wimp about needles to really go through with it, but I do fantasize about it!

Traci

Kat11's picture
Kat11
Posts: 1931
Joined: May 2009

I have Tattoos, and I had the sharpies to. How dare that women think you were making up some kind of story. I don't know, there are some crazy people out there. I have my appointment this Tuesday. The good thing about the tats and the markers is they know where to look right. Hey, do what ever you want, no right , no wrong. Hugs T
Kathy ~

Ritzy's picture
Ritzy
Posts: 4382
Joined: Aug 2009

I never thought about having mine removed. I actually forget about them, as, they are barely noticeable now, and, I am sure will even fade more with time. But, you need to do what will make YOU feel better.

Let us know what you decide!

Sue :)

SIROD's picture
SIROD
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

Dear Rague,

It is quite true that you can not be radiated in the same area twice. That is why the dots are important. In case records are lost and occasionally are, the record on your skin is permanent.

One never knows what the future may hold. I had a friend who developed skin mets from breast cancer.
They radiated the area of the mets which was near the radiated site from her original dx. They did not radiate the original site. However, radiation did little to stop progression. A wonderful product called Miltex did a better job. Available only in Germany but the FDA allows it in the USA for compassionate usage.

It is just a good idea to keep something so small that can not possibly a problem for a fashion statement.
Though you can't see your marks with the naked eye, I am willing to bet that certain types of lights they might still be viewable.

SIROD

Rague
Posts: 3660
Joined: Aug 2009

Read what I wrote - I said that 1 of my 4 tatoos was no longer visiable at all as it had been in the area that had the deepest burns/worst scars. 2 had faded a lot ON THEIR OWN. I don't usually pay attention to how visiable they are - doesn't matter to me at all - but I did notice today that one of the 2 that have faded ON THEIR OWN is almost gone. The one that was the most visiable is also lighter than I remember it being. I can only base on my persoonal experiences - I had radiation to my throat area as a small child in 1948 as before I was 2 yrs old my tonsils had to be taken out and at that time the protocol for very small children who HAD to had their tonsil out that young was to do radiation to the area to prevent them from growning back (didn't work in my case - I have a new set that has been there for approx 63 years)- there was not tatoos done then. The tatoos that were done a bit less than a year ago are fading on their own.

Susan

SIROD's picture
SIROD
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

Dear Susan,

How awful to radiated tonsils of a 2 years old. I had mine out in 1952 at the age of six. I am very happy that the protocol was no longer in effect. I am sorry that yours grew back.

When my aunt had radiation for breast cancer in 1959, they burned her very badly. I read that Rachel Carson, author of "Silent Spring" had a lot of radiation for her breast cancer tumors in the early sixties. She died in 1964 the same year as my aunt. I thought the woman who ushered in the environmental movement probably died of excess radiation. I wonder how much they gave you in 1948! The main things is that your still here to write about it. I wonder how far back radiation goes as a treatment.

Were your tonsils cancerous? I worked with man who did have cancer in his tonsils. He did ok.

Best,

Doris

Betsy13
Posts: 186
Joined: May 2010

I pray there isn't a next time, but if there is, I won't go through radiation again. The side effects have been horriffic. Mine were not the 'normal' side effects (whatever those are) and I am still experiencing them.

Next time, I would choose a mastectomy and reconstruction. I realize there are problems with that, also, but healing 6 weeks from surgery as opposed 6 years from radiation (ok, seriously 7 months and counting) I truly don't feel I could handle radiation again.

Betsy

disneyfan2008
Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

I was lucky enough to have no side effects at all...I only wish it could be that way for everyone...

feel better..

Betsy13
Posts: 186
Joined: May 2010

It wasn't the treatments...it was and is the side effects...

Christmas Girl's picture
Christmas Girl
Posts: 3688
Joined: Apr 2009

Like Chen, and as you know, I'm many more years ahead of you along the journey... Also like Chen, it is now almost impossible to find those very tiny dots. Certainly, I can't see all of them. They've faded to the point where they just blend in with other freckles.

Only you can decide for yourself. But, as your friend - I'd ask you to wait. You're still enduring treatment, which isn't always pleasant (to say the least). And, you've still got a long way to go. Why add more discomfort, now? Revisit this subject later?

With hugs, and...

Kindest regards, Susan

Betsy13
Posts: 186
Joined: May 2010

My Rad. Onc. waited until they were ready to put the tattoos on before being kind enough to tell me about them. I was not given an option. I was told that I had to have them. I sat and cried. Otherwise, I would have used a sharpie and drawn them on myself.

So, to answer you question...YES, I would have them removed in a heartbeat. As soon as I can find someone who will remove them for free. I didn't want them the first time. I do not look at them as battle scars. I feel my battle scar inside my chest every day with the hole my lumpectomy left. It will be a year in February and I am starting to think plastic surgery.

We each deal with things differently. I was not supported before, during, or after my breast cancer. I feel like a freak and they remind me of such. Good bye and good riddance, the sooner the better.

SIROD's picture
SIROD
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

Dear Betsy,

Unless you have a crystal ball to know the future you might think twice before removal. I did not have a choice on the tattoos and I was also marked up with permanent markers.

As I mention in my other posts, records can be lost but there is one on your chest that is permanent. You may never have a need again. I sincerely hope you don't.

Skin mets from breast cancer and bone mets might be a good reason to keep the tattoos in case of a future need for radiation. They are so small unless a person knows they are not really very visible.

With breast cancer there is not good bye and good riddance. Once you are diagnose with the disease, it can come back, even up to 30 plus years later. One might have the experience behind them, but always in your subconscious it is there. A pain, here or there, it comes to the forefront. The good thing is that 70% of women won't have it return and as the years go by, hopefully the percentage will go up.

You are not a freak, you are a woman who was unfortunate to be diagnose with breast cancer. It's not the worst kind of cancer to have. Your not stage IV either. If you go look at other cancer boards on the CSN site, you will realize there are other cancers who are far worst than breast cancer.

Time will help you deal with breast cancer but you are a member of a club that no one ever wants to join.
That is a fact.

Best wishes,

SIROD

Betsy13
Posts: 186
Joined: May 2010

because I had nothing and was made to feel a freak. I won't do radiation again. My side effects were so horriffic and I am still ill from them. I know there are side effects to a mastectomy and reconstruction, but I would rather heal for 6 weeks than 6 mos. or longer and I'm at longer...

How did you deal with your bc? I have had a very rude awakening as to whom I matter to and I am still dealing with those ramifications. People I thought would be there, aren't -- this includes family, friends, and co-workers.

Would appreciate your input,
Betsy

disneyfan2008
Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

I had radiation..but only have freckle spots...is this what you are talking about or are there other tattoos? That is all I am aware of?

I know when all done with 8 wks daily..I have lopsided square tan on one breast. (I hadn't realized it was the whole breast-I had in my mind just small area.)

Grandma X 6
Posts: 135
Joined: Mar 2010

They tried to talk me into to it I said it was not happening. They used clear round stickers that are used in surgeries and marked them with a sharpie. I am allergic to tape but there did not bother me. They would replace them when they came loose it was not need very often and yes you could shower just don't rub them. So you don't have the tats speak up for your self it is your body!

MAJW
Posts: 2515
Joined: May 2009

Mine are 4 tennie, tiny dots.......hard to tell them from freckles........Personally, I've had ENOUGH done to my "girl"....would never subject myself to LASER removal of 4 tiny dots!

disneyfan2008
Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

my friends wants us to all go to get tattoos..I do not like tatoos at all..so I told them I have my tatoos already from radiation

disneyfan2008
Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

I dont' even notice them -

good luck with what ever you decide!

Eil4186's picture
Eil4186
Posts: 967
Joined: Dec 2007

I was told that I should never have my tattoos removed because if I ever needed more rediation the marks will serve as a guide because the same tissue can never be radiated twice.

Mine have not faded in over 4 years. The one on my chest is very visible with a v-neck shirt. The ink is an odd shape, I think that the needle was not inserted straight or something. People have asked me about it. Weird, huh?

I don't mind the tatts though. I have many tattoos; butterflies and such. I love them. I am also in the process of having one removed with lasers. It is very painful. They are basically burning your skin. There is bleeding, blistering and oozing. It is excruciating and very expensive. Each area must be done over and over. I have spent about $1200.00 so far on a 3 inch tattoo and it will probably cost another $2000.00 more. Each treatment is $200.00 and they can only do a tiny area at a time. due to swelling. To be honest I couldn't stand any more anyway.

carkris's picture
carkris
Posts: 4554
Joined: Aug 2009

I had rads on my chest in 1995. I cant see it but the docs can. I think they are trained to see them. I only have one that bothers me it is in the middle of my chest. near where a necklace would lie. very obvious to me and I was quite bummed about it. But I think I will wait to see if it fades. Quite frankly I have had enough of being "handled" for now. (hopefully will get a repreive) If you hate them, perhaps your doc can advise you on what is best. One thing I was thinking though, is my chest this time is quite tender, not sure I would want to deal with any more pain either.

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4638
Joined: Feb 2004

Well mine are visible, I see them after every bath and it has been 13 years. In all that time they have become a part of me, a symbol of my journey to survive and my triumph over this nasty thing we all have in common. In the end I think it is a personal choice, let us know what you decide once the soul searching is over.

Hugs,

RE

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