Breast Cancer

A Confidence Boosting Tattoo after Mastectomy

A woman is getting her hair done in a salon.

Normally, Elaine Lopes’ family does not care for tattoos. But then breast cancer turned the Brazilian’s life upside down. A tattoo helped her accept her body again – with a little help from Bepanthen.

As Elaine Lopes looks in the mirror, she can’t help but cry. The tattoo artist Miro Dantas has spent two hours performing his craft, meticulously needling ink under her skin. And then he’s finished – although only that morning, Elaine (44) had thought she was just popping into his studio (in São Paulo’s bohemian Vila Madalena district) for an initial consultation. As she gazes down at herself, she is utterly overwhelmed.


It’s as if Dantas has created a sculpture. Her breasts now both look completely intact – as they used to before she fell ill. “I have no words to describe how I feel. I am over the moon – I feel whole again,” Lopes says.


After her operation and mastectomy, she struggled with her body identity. The cancer had gone, but so had part of her breast. Now, however, thanks to Dantas’ artistic touch, she can finally enjoy looking in the mirror again. All that remains to be done is to heal and care for her skin. After all, Dantas’ creation needs preserving for a lifetime. He hands her a tube of BepanthenTM Ointment he recommends for aftercare.

These are the tips from Miro Dantas for fresh tattoos

After removing the protective film, carefully bathe the freshly tattooed skin with lukewarm water and mild soap.

Then, gently pat the tattooed skin dry with a clean towel. You must avoid rubbing the skin!

After that, you should apply a thin layer of moisturizing ointment to the skin – You only need to apply small amount, just enough to cover the area evenly

Clean it regularly: Wash and moisturize at least twice a day for three to six weeks.

One in four women

will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.
Source: WHO

Dantas (now 46) started out as a tattoo artist in 1995. Over the years, he has seen and heard a lot about healing wounds. His clients use various different ointments and creams. “I can always tell straight away who uses BepanthenTM and who doesn’t,” he says. “Tattooed skin recovers more quickly, and the colored pigments embed better into the skin.”


It is a fact that BepanthenTM Ointment is particularly effective for the aftercare of tattoos in Brazil. It contains dexpanthenol, which penetrates quickly into the skin thus promoting the natural regeneration process of the skin. ”The ideal preparation for tattoo aftercare is an ointment which is a water-in-oil formulation and well suited to keep the tattooed skin moisturized” says Maged ElShazly, Global Medical Marketing Leader Bepanthen at Bayer.
“It should be applied in a thin layer on the tattooed skin as many times as needed, at least twice a day for three to six weeks. It should be avoided as much as possible that the tattooed skin dries out, because moisturization is key during tattoo aftercare,” says Sonja Trapp, Global Medical Strategy Dermatology Lead at Bayer.


As Lopes makes her way home, she thinks back again over the last few years. They have been tough. In 2015, a mammogram that formed part of her health screening to become a teacher revealed she had breast cancer, detecting a tumor that proved to be malignant. Not only that, but it had already grown to more than five centimeters without Lopes noticing, despite regular checks. “As the doctor was telling me this, the ground seemed to open up beneath my feet. I felt paralyzed. So many thoughts flooded through my mind, above all: Am I going to die?”


She underwent surgery shortly after that. The surgeons removed her right breast, reconstructing it with an implant, and also reduced her left breast. The entire tumor was gone. “We won that battle,” Lopes says. But then she faced a further challenge that she hadn’t really reckoned with – trying to accept the changes to her body. And she found that incredibly hard.


The fact that her breasts were smaller was something she could live with. However, her right breast was now missing the nipple. “I couldn’t look in the mirror without staring down at it. I was so unhappy with myself, and it just made things even worse to feel anyone’s eyes on me. I enjoy dancing, but when the women in my group looked at me, I felt bad.”


Of course, she was pleased that the operation had been a success and had indeed saved her life. “But my self-esteem had also been torn away.” She needed to find a solution. Lopes started researching the subject and learned about 3D tattoos. As she investigated further, she hit upon Dantas, who had started using tattoos to replace missing nipples. She says, “I was determined to give it a shot.”


And now her dream has come true. So, what do the other members of her family think, who normally so disapprove of tattoos? “They couldn’t believe how authentic it looks. Unfortunately, many people still stigmatize tattoos without realizing how much they can mean to people. In my case, the tattoo helped me like myself again.”

5 min read