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  • Writer's pictureTerry Lively

Male Breast Cancer and Mastectomy

When I think of breast cancer, I think of mammograms, pink ribbons, reconstruction, implants verses tissue transfer, yes this is what comes to mind. That was, until Jeff walked into my shop. Jeff is a breast cancer survivor. He is about 50 years old, and had undergone unilateral mastectomy a year prior to coming to see me.

Breast cancer in men occurs in less than 1% of all breast cancer cases. It is very rare, and normally presents as a lump under the nipple or areola. Often it goes untreated because men are not aware of what to look for, unlike most women who do a monthly breast exam on themselves.

Jeff was my first male nipple tattoo. I was a little nervous, to say the least. I specialize in photo realism tattooing for survivors. I add effects such as light and shade, texture, wrinkles, Montgomery glands, etc., to make my female clients feel whole again. “The illusion of protrusion” as we like to say. But how was I going to create this in a small area about the size of a quarter? Men’s nipples are much smaller. It reminded me of a tattoo artist who worked for me years ago. He also specialized in photo-realism, and would get so frustrated when clients would walk in and want a piece done in this style, however wanted it about the size of a small lemon. Not much area to work with.

But I was determined to get it right with Jeff. I started sketching little nipples. Seeing how I could create something similar to his natural side. I took photos of his healthy nipple, printed them out and had them next to me to use as my reference for drawing, and also next to me while tattooing his 3D nipple.

The appointment went very well. His wife came with him, and we all bonded during the process. I have a way of talking to people to put them at ease. Let’s see, he’s about my age, probably likes the same kind of music I do. I had some great classic rock streaming, knowing it would probably give us something to talk about. We listened to Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, some Springsteen, well you get the idea. We found ourselves talking about concerts we went to when we were teenagers, recent ones we had attended. Before we knew it, his tattoo was done.

Male Mastectomy
Male Mastectomy and Areola Tattooing

To say he was happy with my work is an understatement. To say I was relieved is also an understatement. In fact, he was so happy, he sent me an email the next week and told me how much he loved his little nipple, and that he was now comfortable walking around at the beach without his shirt on.

Men are such great clients. If you do areola tattooing, don’t be afraid to work on them, whether it’s a breast cancer survivor, scar work, eyeliner or brows. You’ll enjoy the experience and gain confidence in yourself as an artist !!

If you are a male and notice a bump or something unusual in your nipple, please see your doctor and have it checked out. xoxo Terry

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