Breast cancer survivors in Ontario’s Halton Region have reason to celebrate as they can now access a transformative service that marks a significant step in their journey toward recovery. Areola tattooing, a vital aspect of breast reconstruction following mastectomies, is now available, provided by the region’s first certified physician in this specialty, Dr. Alexandra Ginty.
Dr. Ginty is the Regional Primary Care Lead for the Mississauga Halton Central West Regional Cancer Program. Her journey as a breast cancer survivor and an artist led her to obtain certification in this unique artistry. Becoming the first certified physician in the region, she brings a compassionate and skilled touch to areola tattooing, enhancing the recovery experience for patients.
The procedure involves replicating a natural areola using pigments to simulate an areola’s physical dimension and depth, typically removed during a mastectomy. Dr. Ginty’s expertise allows her to create remarkably realistic results, with the option of 3D tattooing that creates a complete illusion of a nipple. The impact of this procedure extends beyond the physical; it plays a vital role in the psychological healing process for many mastectomy patients.
Dr. Ginty describes the significance of areola tattooing: “We can do an excellent job of that with the tattooing, and sometimes I do completely 3D tattooing where it’s a complete illusion that there’s a nipple.” She highlights that this procedure helps breast cancer survivors regain their sense of self and contributes to their emotional recovery, filling the gap often left by scars.
Introducing Dr. Ginty’s services addresses a vital breast cancer survivor community need. While breast reconstruction has advanced significantly, many patients felt a crucial element was missing from their recovery journey. The absence of an areola often became a constant reminder of the challenges they had faced. As Dr. Ginty emphasizes, Areola tattooing is not an add-on but an integral part of the overall breast reconstruction process.
Moreover, having Dr. Ginty perform the procedure under OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) coverage makes it financially accessible for patients. Without this support, the procedure cost can reach up to $1,000. Dr. Ginty’s vision is for areola tattooing to be recognized as the gold standard of breast cancer recovery, ensuring that it becomes an essential part of every patient’s journey.
To date, Dr. Ginty has conducted this procedure for 72 individuals, and the impact on their confidence and quality of life is palpable. Breast cancer patients find a renewed sense of self, as the areola tattooing helps them see themselves in a different light beyond their cancer journey. One such patient, Heidi Corley, reflects, “When I look in the mirror, I’m back to who I was before.”
She also appreciates the comfort of undergoing the procedure where she received treatment, knowing it is a sterile and safe environment. Having Dr. Ginty, a breast cancer survivor, perform the tattooing adds more empathy and understanding to the process. Patients like Corley have found solace in the shared experiences and guidance that Dr. Ginty provides.
The significance of this service is echoed by Sarah Garraway, Program Director of Cancer and Ambulatory Care at Halton Healthcare. She highlights how areola tattooing is the final piece of the survivorship puzzle, contributing to breast cancer survivors’ physical and psychological well-being. The service aims to help survivors regain control and confidence, fostering a positive self-image.
While the demand for areola tattooing is growing, currently, Dr. Ginty is the sole practitioner capable of performing the procedure. Her dedication to her work as a family doctor and her role as the Regional Primary Care Lead mean that expanding this program is challenging. The hope is that, as awareness and demand increase, additional trained practitioners will join the effort to make this service accessible to a broader patient base.
This October, as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is observed worldwide, the introduction of areola tattooing in the Halton Region is a testament to the continuous progress in breast cancer care and recovery. Dr. Alexandra Ginty’s journey as a breast cancer survivor turned areola tattoo artist is a shining example of how personal experiences can lead to transformative contributions to healthcare. Her work not only completes the physical restoration but also nurtures the emotional healing of breast cancer survivors, helping them embrace their post-cancer journey with renewed confidence and self-assurance.