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In Celebration of a Scar: 25 Amazing Mastectomy Tattoos

“I share my tattoo and feelings with you, so more women can realize there is an answer to mastectomies other than hiding or plastic.” -Marcia Rasner.

I’ve tried to imagine how I would react if breast cancer forced me to get a mastectomy. But that’s the kind of thing you can’t really fathom until you’re on the receiving end of a bad diagnosis.

Luckily for me it hasn’t happened. But it’s something millions of women have confronted. According to Cancer.org, about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year.  Around 40,000 women will die from breast cancer. More importantly, hundreds of thousands will survive!

Right now there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. 2.9 million!

A lot of those women beat cancer by undergoing mastectomies. That’s surgery to remove the the entire breast including all the tissue and sometimes, in severe cases, some of the chest muscle may be removed.  Sometimes both breasts are removed (a double mastectomy), often as preventive surgery in women at very high risk for breast cancer. Many women who plan to reconstruct their breasts undergo a breast-conserving surgery. This is when doctors try to save as much of the breast as possible. Often these women have to undergo radiation after the mastectomy.

According to Cancer.org, “Most mastectomy incisions are in the shape of an oval around the nipple, running across the width of the breast. If you are having a skin-sparing mastectomy, the incision will be smaller, including only the nipple, areola, and the original biopsy scar.

I explain the above to you to prepare you for the differences in the photos you’re about to see. Some women had a mastectomy, others underwent a double mastectomy. Some chose to reconstruct their breasts and others didn’t. The one thing all the women you’re about to see have in common? They chose to celebrate their triumph over cancer by getting tattoos. They are all warriors. Survivors.

Getting my tattoo was the culmination of a three year dance with Breast Cancer. The tattoo changed my mastectomy scar into my shield.” – Pam Huntley.

Meet them.

(Note: while beautiful, these photos do contain some nudity and may not be appropriate around kids or at work.)

nggallery id=130829

  • Tough 1 of 25
    Tough
    Inga Duncan Thornell's badass chest piece after a double mastectomy. The photo was first published in Margot Mifflin's book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. It recently went viral which has surprised Inga who says, "if it helps more women to feel better about their bodies, then I will try to keep my blushes to myself." Tattoo by Tina Bafaro, in Seattle.
    Photo credit: dunthor.com
  • Hope 2 of 25
    Hope
    Full side tattoo to cover mastectomy.
    Photo credit: yelp.com
  • Strength 3 of 25
    Strength
    Jane Fox had her mastectomy scar incorporated into a skeletal lizard design.
    Photo credit: jcms.jrn.columbia.edu
  • Triumph 4 of 25
    Triumph
    Massive torso tattoo over double mastectomy.
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Power 5 of 25
    Power
    Shawn says, "With this tattoo, I stepped through another doorway in my life...a ceremony of transformation ...a circle of healing." Tattoo by Madame Chinchilla who wrote the book "Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed."
    Photo credit: triangletattoo.com
  • Belief 6 of 25
    Belief
    Flowers covering a full mastectomy.
    Photo credit: uncletimtattoo.com
  • Beauty 7 of 25
    Beauty
    Chest piece after double mastectomy. Woman's own design. Tattoo, done by Josh Bush, Sioux City Iowa.
    Photo credit: deviantart.com
  • Elegance 8 of 25
    Elegance
    Flower covering mastectomy scar.
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Unconventional 9 of 25
    Unconventional
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Courage 10 of 25
    Courage
    Elizabeth chose to have her mastectomy scar partially covered with cherry blossoms.
    Photo credit: jsms.jrn.columbia.edu
  • Perseverance 11 of 25
    Perseverance
    From needlesandsins.com: "Adriana was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at age 31 in September 1999. She had a modified radical mastectomy removing a 5cm tumor. At the time of the surgery, she had reconstruction and several follow-up surgeries after chemotherapy and radiation. As the radiation ruined her skin, she was unable to have a nipple reconstruction. Almost exactly 11 years to the date from her surgery, Adriana made an appointment for her first tattoo." After seeing the tattoo Adriana said she felt repaired for the first time in ten years.
    Photo credit: needlesandsins.com
  • Faith 12 of 25
    Faith
    Chest and full sleeve tattoo over mastectomy scar.
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Power 13 of 25
    Power
    Mastectomy tattoo done by Darlene Dibona.
    Photo credit: yelp.com
  • Inspiration 14 of 25
    Inspiration
    Mastectomy scar cover-up.
    Photo credit: deviantart.com
  • Tenacious 15 of 25
    Tenacious
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga.
    Photo credit: tattoodonkey.com
  • Humor 16 of 25
    Humor
    Recognize these characters? Tattoo over mastectomy scar.
    Photo credit: photobucket.com
  • Conviction 17 of 25
    Conviction
    Flowering vines over invasive double mastectomy. Tattoo by Madame Lazonga.
    Photo credit: tattoodonkey.com
  • Confidence 18 of 25
    Confidence
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga.
    Photo credit:
  • Soujourner 19 of 25
    Soujourner
    Jackie Floyd decided to get an elaborate tattoo instead of having traditional reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy. She shares her story because she wants others to realize 'there are as many ways to move through cancer as there are women.' Jackie doesn't call herself as a breast cancer 'survivor.' She prefers 'sojourner.'
    Photo and quote credit: udeson.com
  • Grace 20 of 25
    Grace
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga.
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Fighter 21 of 25
    Fighter
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga.
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Bold 22 of 25
    Bold
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga.
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Artistry 23 of 25
    Artistry
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga.
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com
  • Camraderie 24 of 25
    Camraderie
    Marcia and Pam.

    "I share my tattoo and feelings with you, so more women can realize there is an answer to mastectomies other than hiding or plastic." - Marcia.

    "Getting my tattoo was the culmination of a three year dance with Breast Cancer. The tattoo changed my mastectomy scar into my shield." - Pam.
    Photo credit: triangle.com
  • Daring 25 of 25
    Daring
    Tattoo by Madame Lazonga
    Photo credit: tattooroadtrip.com

You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.

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