Surviving breast cancer is one of the bravest and most challenging things a person can accomplish. Unfortunately, even for those who manage to beat the disease, many still come out bearing battle scars.

One of the more common preventive measures and treatments for breast cancer is what's known as a bilateral mastectomy – the surgical removal of part or all of both breasts. While this is recognized as a highly effective treatment for the disease, it can also have unwanted aesthetic side effects. The good news is that many tattoo artists have stepped in to offer women recourse where they previously have had none.

The mark of a survivor
It's true that there are other effective treatments for breast cancer, but mastectomies still remain one of the more effective methods. According to the National Cancer Institute, the operation is commonly used as a preventive measure for those who have genetic markers that make them more susceptible to contracting breast cancer. When used in this fashion, the source noted that it can reduce breast cancer risk by up to 95 percent. In those women who do contract cancer, Johns Hopkins Medicine noted that a mastectomy can be an effective treatment method that also severely reduces the risk of recurrence.

However, once women have been rid of the immediate threat of the disease, they're left with the physical and emotionally challenging recovery period. Many even seek reconstructive surgery after undergoing a mastectomy as a means of mitigating some of the psychological stress of the treatment.

Tattooing provides more options
For those women who wish to explore cosmetic recovery options following a mastectomy, choices are often restricted. One of the more common paths taken is reconstructive cosmetic surgery. However, such a procedure can be expensive and, for someone who has already undergone major surgery, opting to go under the knife again may be daunting. 

In recent years, tattoo artists have starting turning their needles to the cause of helping cancer survivors by offering post-mastectomy tattoos. These can vary greatly depending on the survivor's condition as well as personal preference. In general, they serve to cover up scarring or otherwise beautify a part of the body that may have been ravaged by either cancer or the ensuing treatment.

PSFK reported that the mobile app – short for personal ink – was developed to help connect cancer survivors with tattoo artists in their area who perform such services. The app also allows users to browse images of other tattoos that have been uploaded. It's even possible to upload a picture of yourself and "try on" potential ideas, helping women completely eliminate any tattoo regret that may be associated with the process. It's an important means of reclamation that allows women who have been through the worst to regain control over their body.

Turning a negative into a positive
This type of tattooing is a perfect example of what can happen when the ingenuity of an art form meets the altruism and good will of those who practice it. While many may think that middle-aged women are far from the target demographic many tattoo artists are seeking to reach, countless women have gone under the needle for mastectomy tattoos as a means of boosting their self-confidence after a significant medical ordeal.

Perhaps most astonishing about the practice is the variety of ways different tattoo artists and their clients have found to address the issue. Some, such as Upworthy-reported Maryland-based artist Vinnie Myers, focus on recreating anatomical structure that may have been lost due to surgery or severe scarring, literally tattooing nipples onto women who have had to have them surgically removed. Others opt for much more artistic approaches, covering their whole chests with brightly colored scenes that let them turn their bodies into works of art. 

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