Results from a pilot study presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference suggest that invisible tattoos could be used to replace permanent dark ink tattoos that women with breast cancer are marked with.
These permanent dark ink tattoos are made to ensure that treatment is always aimed at the same spot during each session. In dark-skinned women, these tattoos are difficult to see, which could result in treatment inconsistencies in the area that is receiving radiation.
Research has shown that these pin prick tattoos made on their skin remind women of their radiotherapy sessions, diagnosis and disease, resulting in a much lower self-esteem and body confidence.
Researchers funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), based at The Royal Marsden hospital in London assessed how 42 patients undergoing radiotherapy felt about their body before treatment and a how they felt a month later. Fluorescent tattoos, only seen under UV light were offered to half the women; the other half had conventional dark ink tattoos.
Scientists found that 56 percent of the women with the fluorescent tattoos felt better about their bodies in the second survey, a month later; only 14 percent of the women who had dark ink tattoos felt better by that time.
Fluorescent tattoos took a little longer to complete, however this difference was not significant and it actually made no difference in the accuracy of treatment, when compared to dark ink tattoos.
Data was presented by Steven Landeg, senior radiographer from the Royal Marsden hospital, who state in a Cancer Research UK press release, “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”.
Evelyn Weatherall, 62, had chemotherapy and radiotherapy as a consequence of her breast cancer, and stated: “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.”
Matt Seymour, NCRI’s research director explained that with almost 80 percent of breast cancer patients surviving 10 and more years, it becomes crucial to reduce the long term impact of treatment on patient’s lives. He reminds that tattoos are important in order to keep radiotherapy treatment accurately targeted in each session and these invisible tattoos may have a huge impact and may improve thousands of patient’s self confidence.
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