There are two kinds of mastectomy: skin-sparing and nipple-sparing. Nipple-sparing, as its name suggests, spares the nipple so no reconstruction is needed. Skin-sparing leaves only skin with which to reconstruct the breasts and therefore some women decide they want to have nipple reconstruction done. Though not necessary some women feel that nipple reconstruction completes their mastectomy journey and gives them a better aesthetic result. Regardless of which kind of reconstruction you choose, your nipple will not function for breast feeding after a mastectomy.
There are two types of nipple reconstruction one is surgical rebuilding of the nipple and the other is a 3D tattoo. The main advantage to having a surgically reconstructed nipple is that it physically projects out from the breast. That said, the reconstructed nipple will not look or feel like your natural nipple did. Other cons include flattening of the new nipple over time, additional surgery, and additional scarring. Though nipple reconstruction is usually an outpatient procedure, there is a longer recovery time compared to the 3D tattoo choice. Furthermore, 3D tattoos can have details and coloring that nipple reconstruction surgery alone cannot achieve. However like reconstructive nipple surgery, the effects of a 3D tattoo can fade as pigments fade. 3D tattoos are also flat to the touch. Some women choose to have both a reconstruction surgery and then subsequent tattooing.
Another avenue that is less common is an artistic approach to nipple or breast tattooing. Some women have decided to use the space on their breast as a platform of artistic expression. One of these instances can be seen on Dr. Kim’s Instagram account if you click here. This patient shared her heartwarming thoughts on her tattoo with Dr. Kim: “In these very difficult times I wanted to share my happiness project that was completed here in Seattle two weeks ago. I smile every morning when I see these little friends.” Though less popular, these tattoos are often decorative or sentimental. Nipple reconstruction is about being confident in your breasts and what makes a patient confident varies widely.
Depending on the recommendation of your surgeon you can choose the best reconstructive pathway to achieve your aesthetic goals. For more information on nipple reconstruction, please consult board-certified surgeon Dr. John Kim at his office at Northwestern Plastic Surgery 312-695-6022.