Cancer survivor, offering hope to women recovering from breast cancer, hopes to get her tattoo techniques recognised by the NHS (Graphic Images)

A medical tattoo artist, who is herself a cancer survivor, is offering support to women recovering from breast cancer surgery – and hopes to get her work recognised by the NHS.

Helen Aldous, from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, specialises in post-operative tattoos which can have a huge impact on her clientslives.  Using authorised medical tattoo techniques she can soften and disguise the appearance of scars, and also create highly realistic reconstructions of parts of the body such as the nipple, which is often removed during mastectomy surgery.

Helen, 49, supported her own mother through breast cancer before becoming seriously ill with thyroid cancer herself in 2017Both experiences had a profound effect on the direction of her work:

The majority of people dont know what their choices are,said Helen. 

The NHS does offer nipple tattooing but the inks and equipment that are used means that it often fades and has to be redone every couple of years.

“The difference with what I do is that the nipples are permanent so there’s no need to keep returning for top-ups which can be traumatic as it’s a constant reminder of the cancer.

“Permanent 3D nipples mean that the person can finally reach the end of their journey and put cancer behind them once and for all. It’s so important for their mental wellbeing, body image and recovery.

After her mothers experience Helen decided to help people on their journey of recovery by offering realistic and permanent nipple tattooing to both women and men who had undergone surgery.   But her own illness meant that she had to put everything on hold:

I was off work for six months and even isolated in a lead-lined hospital room at one point after having my thyroid and 47 lymph nodes removed and undergoing radiation.”

The experience, and the scarring I was left with, made me even more determined to help other people recovering from cancer.

As well as her years of traditional tattooing experience, Helen went on to become a fully trained medical tattooist and is now keen to work alongside the NHS offering reconstructive tattoos to anyone who is struggling with their appearance following surgery.

She recently completed a Medical Areola Masterclass and Scar Course with an NHS recognised training provider, which qualifies her to work on nipple restoration and to improve surgical scarring with medical microneedling. This has enabled her to combine her traditional tattoo craft with medical micropigmentation and artistic methods to produce a new standard of nipple tattoo which lasts a lifetime.

She already has a number of patients who have found the experience life-changing.  Linda, aged 55, had a double mastectomy in 2015 and went to Helen to have permanent nipple tattoos:

Even personal things like having a shower can be a constant reminder of your cancer,said Linda.

But now I look at my breasts and they look like they were before. 

Your body image definitely changes how your brain thinks and this has been an opportunity to draw a line under the whole experience and move on.

Helen was absolutely amazing from start to finish.  She was professional, kind, and considerate and even used vegan ink as she knew I was vegetarian.

The whole experience was just outstanding.” 

 

Cancer survivor, offering hope to women recovering from breast cancer, hopes to get her tattoo techniques recognised by the NHSCancer survivor, offering hope to women recovering from breast cancer, hopes to get her tattoo techniques recognised by the NHS

Helen is also quick to reassure people that the process is not unduly painful:

You often find that anyone who has had surgery has lost nerves in that area so you usually cant feel as much.

And she is keen to help people of all ages who may be suffering from post-operative or other types of scarring.  She currently offers her tattooing services to people recovering from burn injuries and various types of surgery.

The tattoos I have most enjoyed doing are the ones which are helpful to people,she said. 

You end up listening to their story and it all becomes a bit of a rite of passage.”

Helen, who is trained as a graphic designer and illustrator as well as in medical and  artistictattooing, works from her studio near Huddersfield.  She is happy to talk her clients through whats on offer and hopes that her skills will give them the confidence to move on in the future.

For further information visit her website atwww.HelenAldous.co.uk or www.3DNippleTattoos.co.uk

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