Is there an alternative to tattoos?

I’m in the middle of chemo and due to have radiotherapy early next year. I’ve read that this involves getting small tattoos and am really not liking the idea of having any more permanent reminders of this time - scars are enough!

Anyone know of hospitals offering a less permanent alternative to tattoos? It would be good to have alternatives to suggest in case my radiotherapy centre (City Hospital, Belfast) insists on tattoos.


They really are’nt worth worrying about, they are so tiny that they are barely visible.

Hi lilac im about to start my radiotherapy on wed had markings done 2 tattoos and a felt pen marker covered over with a clear plaster they said i will have 2 leave it on till rads finished all im saying is if i can have felt pen marks why cant you hope this helps


Hi I start my rads tomorrow and honestly hope they an see my tatoos they are really tiny I can hardly see them, so nothing to worry about,

I am 12 months on from rads, and my tattoos are hardly noticable now, if I wear a low cut dress I just put a small amount of concealer over it. I really wanted a vulture but ended up with 3 small dots… gutted! lol.

Highlandlady -you made me laugh -a vulture indeed. That’s style -and here was me going for daisies lol Surprised you can find yours to need concealer -maybe it’s specs I need ?

Hi lilac
Quite honestly, the tattoos are so small that I have difficulty finding them. They are the size of a small pin prick. It’s useful to have permanent markers so that in future there is always a guide as to where you had radiotherapy.
Sarah x

I did’t want tattooos. I totally understand. I’m sure a lot of them are hardly visible, but I’ve seen some that are. For me it wasn’t so much about them ‘noticing’; compared to the disaster zone that my upper half has become, it’d be nothing! It was more that it was the final straw. I have had soooo much ‘done’ that I couldn’t bear anything else.

Using a permanent pen on top of a Tegaderm 'plaster’is a perfectly well accepted alternative. They stay put very well - you can bath with no probs.
I’m 3 weeks into a 4 week rads programme.

Not sure if it’s NHS protocol, but Macmillan’s site says tattoos “will only be done with your permission” and the Cancer Research site says
“Tattoo marks are only done if you agree”.

If I’m right, that is the only radiotherapy unit in N. Ireland isn’t it? I cannot believe that every single woman in N Ireland who has had rads has also had a permanent mark. They MUST have made exceptions. You’ve got cancer; you’re entitled to be picky! Just tell them you want the Tegaderm option.

Wishing you a side-effect-free time of things with the chemo :slight_smile:

I had mine done at the end of 2008 and they had a job finding them a week after they were done. They are weeny and unless you have perfect skin any moles or blemishes will make them difficult to spot. I think maybe the difference is the colour they use, mine were black and so mole like. Some units use bright blue which notices a little more, looking like a pen smudge. It really was nothing when i had them done, hope yours is the same. Ask for black
Lily x

I have 4 dark blue tattoos, 2 of which are high on my chest and show with certain tops. They are much bigger than a freckle, especially one of them, it does look smudged. When i saw a new onc recently he even said how “hideous” they looked - thanks very much! However, if you were to ever need rads again, they cant zap the same area twice and thats why its important that they are permanent. I try to look at them as saving my life, but i do hate it in the summer.

I was adament i didnt want tatoos i hate them and i discussed it with my oncologist before starting rads and they said they could use henna instead.However when she demonstrated the size of them ( smaller than a freckle) i just had them and i had 5 in all 3 to my chest and one under each arm. you can only see 1 visable under my bra and to be honest its difficult to pick out cos i have a few sun freckles there anyway, julie xx

A lot of good advice here - thanks everyone. A good point about the tattoos preventing you from being zapped in the same place twice. That hadn’t occurred to me. Plus, I’ll make sure to avoid the blue ones.

Lilac x

Didn’t know you could have brown tattoos, that sounds the best to me since they will look more like freckles or moles. Mine are black which doesn’t look so natural, although they’re so tiny it doesn’t really matter.
Sarah x

I am seriously pxxxed off today. Went for rads planning and despite my best intentions of refusing tattoos - had rehearsed the conversation with the consultant so many times in my head - ended up getting them. They are small but I feel my femininity is all gone now. No hair, eyebrows or eyelashes, lopsided and scarred boobs and now what looks like a dirty great blackhead in the middle of my cleavage!

All the professionals were just that - professional and friendly but they were processing so many people that they spoke really quickly with no time for discussion. When I asked if the tattoos were absolutely necessary, onc just said yes and carried on talking about something else. Next thing I was signing the consent form and being moved on for my scan and doodles.

Sorry about the rant, but I feel like a complete doormat.


Hi lilac,
So sorry you feel upset and let down, I didn’t know there was an alternative to tats, and as I jumped when the lower chest one was done, that one is quite large and smudged, maybe you could talk to your gp or onc to ask about them being removed when your rads are finished.
Think I’ll just put up with mine, as I’ve seen enough of hospitals these past few months to last a lifetime!

Hope your treatment goes ok. X

Lilac So sorry you feel low.You are most certainly not a door mat. BC takes away so much from us, including control about what is happening to our bodies to a large extent It is one thing to rehearse the conversation in your heads and another to carry it through when lying there naked from the waist up.Sending you hugs Jackie

Thanks Jackie and Crazy Cat Lady. There are days when we can cope and days when we just can’t. It just took a tiny dot to send me over the edge, but I guess it was the last straw. One thing I’ve learnt so far is that we are all a whole lot stronger than we realise.

Lilac x

Mine are quite noticeable too def more than just a dot. I suppose I’ll get used to them-not much choice really! Snow falling quite heavily hope I am going to get to my last rads appt today and then off to my son’s tomorrow. Hope everyone else gets to appts too, xx