New Service at Miami Cancer Institute Adds the Finishing Touch for Breast Reconstruction Patients

Patients at Miami Cancer Institute who opt for breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy now have a new service available to them that provides a realistic finishing touch for their reconstructed breast.

Paramedical restorative tattoo artist Suzanne Moe replicates the original nipple and areola for clients who’ve lost one or both nipples as a result of surgery

Paramedical restorative tattoo artist Suzanne Moe specializes in a technique that replicates the original nipple and areola for clients who’ve lost one or both nipples as a result of surgery.

The 3DNipple Areola Tattoo is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure that involvesimplanting ink just below the top layer of skin, according to Ms. Moe. Thecustomized ink color, combined with shadowing techniques, gives the illusion ofdepth and dimension, similar to the trompe l’oeil (French for “trick theeye”) technique used by artists for centuries.

“Althoughmany breast cancer patients are candidates for nipple-sparing mastectomies,some need to have their nipples removed as part of the surgery for oncologic oranatomic reasons,” says Ms. Moe, who has worked as a licensed tattoo artistsince 1997. “I’m able to replicate and restore the natural look of both thenipple and the areola by custom-mixing pigments that match individual skintones. I then gently tattoo over scars to create a realistic looking nipple andareola, complete with light, shadows, textures and dimension.”

Thetattoo process itself usually takes two hours or less, according to Ms. Moe,but she also spends additional time with patients during the initialconsultation so she can get to know them, discuss the process, establishexpectations and answer their questions and concerns.

For thoseworried about safety practices or COVID-19, Ms. Moe says sheworks with an abundance of care and caution, and the patient’s safety and peaceof mind are always a top priority. “I take care of my own in-laws, who are intheir 90s, so I’m extremely careful in my own life – for the sake of my familyand my clients,” Ms. Moe says. “We followstrict sterilization and sanitation standards in accordance with OSHArequirements, and use a 100% single-use, disposable system for each procedure.We also use face masks, face shields and plastic barriers, and everything iswiped down and disinfected between clients.”

Immediatelyafter the session, the tattoo is cleaned and covered with a sterile barrier, whichis worn for three days. The tattoo is then kept clean for two weeks while itheals. “No swimming or soaking during this time,” Ms. Moe says. A follow-upappointment eight to ten weeks later lets Ms. Moe and her client evaluate thetattoo once it has healed and add more color or size, if needed.

The tattoo is permanent and will last a lifetime, according to Ms. Moe, who has her own studio, SUMA Ink, in Homestead, Florida, and also sees patients at Miami Cancer Institute on Wednesdays.

Following her bilateral mastectomy, breast cancer survivor Suzy Turner received 3D Nipple Areola Tattoos, a new service for patients at Miami Cancer Institute

Miami Cancer Institute is where Suzy Turner, a 54-year-old mother and business owner from Kendall, sought treatment for breast cancer in 2018. Following her subsequent bilateral mastectomy in 2019, Mrs. Turner had breast reconstruction surgery done by Dr. Miguel Medina, who referred her to Ms. Moe for the “finishing touch.” In February 2020, she became the very first patient to receive a 3D Nipple Areola Tattoo at Miami Cancer Institute.

Mrs. Turner, who 11 years ago launched Turner Tasty Treats, a custom cookie bakery that creates beautifully designed cookies for all occasions, remembers feeling an instant connection with Ms. Moe during her initial consultation. “She was almost like a long-lost girlfriend,” Mrs. Turner recalls. “We talked and laughed, she walked me through the process step-by-step, and she had a great response for every question or concern I had.”

Suzy Turner creates beautifully designed cookies for all occasions

Mrs. Turner had her first session with Ms. Moe in February 2020. The coronavirus pandemic put the final step of her healing process on hold, however, and it wasn’t until June of last year that she was able to schedule her follow-up appointment. Today, her tattoos are completely healed and she couldn’t be happier with the results.

“They look great – they’re very similar to what I had before, interms of color and shape. They even passed the ‘sister-in-law test’,” Mrs.Turner says with a laugh.      

Accordingto Ms. Moe, the detailed, lifelike restoration of their breasts’ features helps patients reclaim a sense of wholeness and completionafter what can be a long and difficult journey. “The transformation is profound on manylevels – it’s really quite emotional, with lots of happiness,gratitude, and tears of joy,” Ms. Moe says. “Ilove helping people, and I’m humbled and honored to be able to do this for them.”

Mrs. Turner is delighted to recommend the nipple tattoo serviceprovided at Miami Cancer Institute. “Women are happy to talk about their breastsand augmentation but when it comes to breast cancer, not so much,” Mrs. Turnerobserves. “I’m pleased to be a voice for the benefits of breast reconstructionand nipple tattooing.”

Mrs. Turner says that while having breast cancer was theworst thing that’s ever happened to her, she has had the most amazingexperience at Miami Cancer Institute. “It’s such a great place. I alwaysrecommend it because the people there are so amazing and they have everythingyou need under one roof,” Mrs. Turner says.

Bringing platters of her famous, fresh-baked cookies with her toher appointments is just one of the ways Mrs. Turner has expressed hergratitude to the doctors and staff at Miami Cancer Institute. “Everyone I’vecome across there during my journey has been so caring and helpful andaccessible. It’s the least I can do,” she says.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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