Research presented this week at the National Cancer Research Institute meeting in the United Kingdom, has shown that using invisible tattoos to substitute for permanent dark ink in breast cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy, can help improve patient’s self-esteem.
To ensure radiation therapy is accurately delivered in the same precise spot throughout different sessions, skin markings are necessary. However, previous studies have found that the marks of a permanent tattoo are a constant reminder of a situation that can have many psychological implications for patients, even years after treatment has finished.
Furthermore, for women with darker skin, dark ink tattoos can be hard to efficiently localize, which could ultimately results in variable radiation treatment of targeted areas, a potentially dangerous and undesired end result.
This recent study, funded by the NIHR and based at The Royal Marsden Hospital, London, gathered 42 breast cancer patients who were undergoing radiotherapy, and asked them to rate how they felt about their body, before and after the treatment.
Half of these patients were given tattoos that were only visible when exposed to UV light, while the rest of the patients were tattooed with conventional dark ink.
The results demonstrated that 56% of women with the fluorescent tattoos had a superior self-esteem regarding their bodies one month after treatment, when compared to 14% of women who received black ink tattoos.
Importantly, the researchers found that using this alternative type of fluorescent tattoos had absolutely no difference in treatment efficiency and took almost the same time to carry out.
“These findings suggest that offering fluorescent radiotherapy tattoos as an alternative to dark ink ones could help ameliorate the negative feelings some women feel towards their bodies after treatment. It’s important to remember that body image is subjective and dark ink radiotherapy tattoos will affect patients differently, but we hope that these results will go some way towards making this a viable option for radiotherapy patients in the future,” Steven Landeg, a senior radiographer from the Royal Marsden, who presented the data, said in a Cancer Research UK news release.
Evelyn Weatherall, a 62 year old breast cancer patient who underwent six cycles of chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy stated in the press release, “I’d asked if I could be part of any kind of clinical trial during my treatment because I’d read about how successful they were proving to be. My doctors told me about the invisible tattoos they were pioneering at The Royal Marsden hospital and I was more than happy to take part. I had lost my hair during chemotherapy and felt that I didn’t want another visible reminder of my cancer. I think I was one of the first to undergo this procedure and it really worked. There wasn’t a mark on my skin after the radiotherapy planning. I was going to a wedding soon afterwards and knew I’d be able to wear an outfit that didn’t make me feel self-conscious. It’s wonderful to think that I may have been a part of something that could become standard in the future”.