Mastectomy Tattoos: an artistic option after surgery

breast cancer surgery post op

In the U.S., over 3.8 million women have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Many women undergo partial or full mastectomies to treat or prevent breast cancer. Having a mastectomy can be a life-changing experience.. Post-surgery, this procedure may change how a woman sees her body. 

For women who do not want to undergo additional procedures, fortunately, there are non-surgical approaches to regaining their sense of self. Nipple and areola tattoos are becoming a more popular option. If you're exploring post-mastectomy tattoos and if it's the right choice for you, here's a guide answering your questions regarding the process. 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a mastectomy tattoo?

There are a few different styles for post-mastectomy tattoos. There are mastectomy scar cover-up tattoos (placed across the chest over scar tissue) and 3D nipple tattoos (realistic tattoos that mimic the shape, color, and texture of actual nipples.) 

When is it safe to get a post-mastectomy tattoo?

The healing process is different for everyone, so it is best to consult with your care team and tattoo artist.  Once you have completed the treatment course determined by you and your medical team, then getting a tattoo is safe. If you're unsure, please consult with your care team.

Current research shows that post-mastectomy tattoos are safe and do not contribute to breast cancer relapse, nor does it interfere with breast cancer screenings. 

Mastectomy Tattoo Angel Wings by Shane Wallin

Mastectomy Tattoo by Shane Wallin/ Instagram: @shanewallintattoo @mastectomytattoo

Can I get a tattoo if I have breast cancer?

There's a higher risk of infection from tattoos if you're actively in treatment. If you are planning to undergo treatment or have recently been diagnosed, consult your care team before booking a tattoo. 

What disqualifies me for a mastectomy tattoo?

If you meet the following criteria, nipple tattoos may not be the best option for everyone. You'll want to discuss your candidacy with a trusted medical professional, experienced plastic surgeon and tattoo artist to see if you are a good prospect for nipple tattoos. The list below may be some factors for not being able to get a post-mastectomy tattoo.

  • You have a history of infections in the breast or chest area.
  • You have recurring swelling or lymphedema in the chest.
  • Damaged breast skin from radiation treatments or very thin breast skin from tissue removed during the procedure.  

Can any artist do a mastectomy tattoo?

mastectomy tattoo by Shane Wallin

Mastectomy Tattoo by Shane Wallin/ Instagram:  @shanewallintattoo @mastectomytattoo

We recommend finding a tattoo artist experienced in doing the type of tattoo you want. If you want a mastectomy cover-up tattoo, find an artist who is experienced working with scars or has done these types of cover-ups before. You'll want to find a qualified artist to complete nipple tattoos. Do your research and find someone you are comfortable working with.

Are mastectomy tattoos painful?

Each individual has their own tolerance level for pain.. Some people  report the tattoo process is painful, while others say it was just slightly painful or uncomfortable.Some people experience numbness after a mastectomy because the nerves in the breast tissue are removed during surgery. This answer really depends on how much breast tissue remains and the type of tattoo you're getting. 

How long does it take to get a nipple tattoo?

The time it takes to complete your tattoo will depend on you and your artist. How long does it take to set up? To place the stencil? Will you need breaks? Are you going to complete your tattoo in one sitting? Consult with your tattoo artist beforehand to make so you can plan and prepare accordingly.

How long does a nipple tattoo take to heal? 

Nipple tattoos can take two to three weeks to heal. ake care of the nipple tattoos as you would any other tattoo. If you have any questions about healing or the state of your tattoo, consult your artist. 

Does insurance cover it?

Check your insurance coverage benefits, as this is deemed a cosmetic procedure, not all insurance plans provide this coverage.  We recommend reaching out to your insurance company to see if mastectomy tattoos are covered. 

Mastectomy tattoo by Ike Trimboli
Mastectomy Tattoo by Ike Trimboli/ Instagram:  @amish_mike

How much do nipple tattoos cost?

The cost of a mastectomy tattoos will vary depending on the artist and the size and design of the tattoo. Your tattoo artist should be able to give you a cost estimate.  Some artists have contracts with local plastic surgeons; check with your medical provider for more information. 

Nipple tattoos may cost anywhere between $400 to $800, depending on the tattoo artist. You may pay more if they travel to tattoo you.

Additional Thoughts

Looking for design ideas?  

Checkout this Pinterest board by Breast Cancer Now.

Want to connect with an experienced mastectomy tattoo artist? 

Check out

For more information about breast cancer including helping someone with breast cancer

Go to

Breast tattoos are a way for women to reclaim agency over their bodies following a mastectomy. It's crucial to support each woman’s choices when it comes to the physical and emotional healing following breast cancer and a mastectomy. 


Mastectomy tattoo by Shane Wallin
Mastectomy Tattoo by Shane Wallin/ Instagram:  @shanewallintattoo @mastectomytattoo