Although reconstructive breast surgery has become a more well-accepted topic of conversation, nipple reconstruction remains rarely discussed. As the central feature of the breast as well as the finishing touch on any breast reconstruction, the appearance of the nipple and areola should never be treated like an afterthought. Here are three options to consider for nipple reconstruction after breast cancer.
1. Physical Nipple Reconstruction
Nipples can be formed from skin and tissue grafts during a relatively simple outpatient procedure that’s scheduled to take place after after the initial reconstruction. In some cases, I may also include an injectable dermal filler to further refine the nipple contours. After the nipple graft has fully healed, a second appointment is required for tattooing the nipple and areola to the proper tone.
2. 3D Nipple Tattoos
Breast reconstruction surgeons offer basic tattooing to create tonal differences that provide the final step after physical nipple reconstruction, but there are professional tattoo artists who specialize in creating incredibly detailed 3D nipple tattoos that don’t require a physical foundation to look realistic. In some cases, health insurance may cover the cost of a post-mastectomy tattoo from a third-party professional as part of reconstruction surgery.
For many women, the most ideal solution is to preserve the natural nipple in the first place through a nipple-sparing mastectomy whenever possible. Although not every woman is a candidate for this approach, those who are can see very nice results from their overall breast reconstruction when the existing nipple remains unaffected by cancer treatments.