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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK
Tattoo machine for cancer doctors
Breast cancer patients at a North East hospital are set to benefit from a new tattoo machine which will be used to add the finishing touches to treatment.

It will allow doctors at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough to tattoo a nipple onto the new breast of a patient following surgery.

The machine costs 3,000 and is similar to those used by commercial tattooists, but meets hospital requirements.

Hartlepool-based charity Pansies Breast Cancer Support Group donated the cash.

It can really mark the end of an era for someone as it helps them to feel complete again and that is wonderful
Isobel Wilson, founder of Pansies
Consultant in plastic and reconstruction surgery Martin Coady said: "The nipple tattoo procedure is very simple, can be done as an outpatient, but does require a little artistic ability on the part of the operator.

"We try to match the pigment to the colour of the nipple on the other side, but then we make it slightly darker because the tattoo will fade in time.

"Essentially the needles on the vibrating head of the machine push the pigment into the top layer of the skin and you just keep going until the whole area is coloured."

Isobel Wilson, the founder of Pansies, said: "Some of our girls from the group have been to the James Cook and seen Mr Coady for reconstruction work.

"The problem was there wasn't a tattoo machine to finish the nipple off and that can make such a difference to patients.

"It can really mark the end of an era for someone as it helps them to feel complete again and that is wonderful."


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