Tattoos help breast cancer patients re-create their areolas

Sinclair Broadcast Group

She was just 39 years old when told she had breast cancer. Now, more than a decade later, Jan Middleton told me after successful treatment and multiple surgeries , she recently took her final step to feeling whole again.

“I thought I was okay with it. Sometimes I thought about it, like, if I was going to a new doctor, when they open my top, should I warn them that there's nothing there?

Jan had a bi-lateral mastectomy, and had a plastic surgeon rebuild her breasts. The problem is Jan never took that final step to recreate an areola.

"Typically, the nipple reconstruction is done secondarily,” said Dr. Jon Mendelsohn of the Advanced Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center. “Generally, esthetically, what you're doing is you're actually is taking a skin graft from maybe the abdominal area to create the areola

“Mine was just clear, just skin, smooth, nothing there,” Jan described.

Recently, she reached out to Shannon Housley. She's one of just a handful of esthiticians in the country now dedicating her practice to cancer patients and ink.

Shannon is trained in 3D areola tattooing.

“We select the size, and the positioning and the color selection is really important too, so we'll go through and swatch different colors on the skin, and get everything where it should be and what they want.,” Shannon said.

With the ink, a smooth surface takes on a life-like look.

“I think it's the last step to gaining something back that was taken,” Shannon said. “You are not looking down and being reminded of all of the scars and the whole journey that they went through.”

“I think I just put it away,” Jan said. “I just kind of put it away in my mind, and didn't realize until almost 12 years later how much better it would make me feel to have that last step done.”