Nipple restoration
Breast Cancer,  Female Identity

Options for Nipple Restoration After a Mastectomy

While I did not choose nipple reconstruction after my double mastectomy, I am familiar with the process, and I’m happy to share my understanding of it. I want to stress that every woman’s path to healing is unique and highly personal. I believe that it’s important to make these decisions with the help of trusted medical experts and personal introspection.

For some women, nipple restoration is a critical step in the healing process, bringing the breast closer to its natural state before mastectomy. Technology has flourished in this field, and incredible strides have been taken in the past decade. The techniques in play nowadays range from the use of one’s own body tissue to frame the contour of the nipple, to nipple-sparing mastectomy, and even to nerve reattachment. These advances offer hope and a feeling of wholeness to women who opt for rebuilds.

Nipple tattooing is also a common technique used in nipple restoration. Here, one or even two sessions may be required to achieve a color that matches the woman’s natural tone and mimics the textures of a real nipple and areola. Aesthetic professionals work authentically to recreate natural-looking nipples using intradermal pigmentation. More exciting progress in the aesthetic realm happens day by day.

I recall a fascinating conversation I had with another breast cancer survivor who had chosen reconstruction. She showed me the result of her nipple restoration, her chest adorned with her tattooed nipples, and it was honestly stunning artwork. Despite my own decision to take the flat route, I recognized and respected the power of her choice and the comfort she took in reconstructive surgery.

And yet, it sparked heavy conversation. I questioned why society and perhaps even the medical circle, expects reconstruction to replicate the losses of a woman’s breast fully. Is it an ingrained expectation? Or a trained response of young doctors to replace what they must take away? Either way, it was a thought-provoking dialogue that I wish could be more broadly pursued.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is a breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur, author, in-demand speaker, women’s health advocate, professional communicator and a globally recognized health rebel. Ellyn's best-selling book "Flat Please Hold the Shame," is a girlfriend’s companion guide for those on the breast cancer journey. She is also the co-creator of, the world’s first conversational AI companion for those on the breast cancer journey. With Dense Breasts Canada and award-winning photographer Hilary Gauld, Ellyn also co-produced I WANT YOU TO KNOW, a celebrated photo essay showing the diverse faces and stories of 31 individuals on the breast cancer journey. Ellyn’s story and have been featured in People Magazine, Chatelaine Magazine, the Globe and Mail, CTV National News and Your Morning, and Fast Company.

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