Radiation tattoo removals for breast cancer survivors

Dr. Sapna Parikh reports on the new technique
October 11, 2013 1:56:52 PM PDT
The tiny dot on Sheryl Collier is not a mole or a freckle, it's a tattoo. Sheryl has three of them.

"I feel as though they stand out so that so that alone bothers a woman (is that I always see them)," said Sheryl, a breast cancer survivor.

But they also helped save her life. The dots were guides for the radiation treatment she needed to fight breast cancer. Technicians use the permanent tattoo dots to align radiation beams for targeted cancer treatment. But for Sheryl, it's now eight years later, and she's getting them removed.

After numbing the area, Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Bruce Katz zaps each tattoo for about five seconds. The laser breaks up the ink which is then slowly absorbed by the body.

"I didn't feel anything, it was quick, easy," Sheryl said.

"We have this new technology, it's called the Picosure laser from cynosure. It actually allows us to get rid of these tattoos much more quickly in fewer treatments," Dr. Katz said.

But it may take about a month for the tattoo to fade, and Dr. Katz says some women may need a second treatment. Any laser tattoo removal comes with a risk of burns and scarring, so you may be wondering, why bother?

But for a lot of women, it's not just what it looks like, it's what it reminds them of.

It's an unwanted momento from the weeks of uncomfortable radiation treatments.

"I did have burning, it was very tiring, it made me very weak," Sheryl said, "it's a reminder of what I've gone through."

But before you have it removed, get the "okay" from your oncologist. And although it may help to erase the constant reminder, it won't completely erase the memories.

"It was a journey, so I don't want to forget," Sheryl said.

For the month of October, Dr. Katz will remove those radiation tattoos for free. It would otherwise cost about a couple hundred bucks, depending on who you go to, and how many treatments you need.

For more information, please visit www.juvaskin.com