Unique tattoo helps breast cancer survivors feel complete again

HOUSTON -- Every year, nearly 250,000 women find out the heartbreaking news that they have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

For the 1 in 8 women the American Cancer Society says are living day-to-day with breast cancer, there are many options for treatment, including removing the breasts and reconstructing them. The journey to recovery can be a long and painful one that isn't often finished with surgery.

Now, a unique cosmetic tattoo treatment is helping to make survivors feel complete again.

Medical micropigmentologist Sherah Juarez uses a special technique to tattoo natural-looking areolas onto breast cancer survivors who have opted out of surgically recreating a nipple.

"I use multiple different size needles, different colors, some highlights and shading that gives the optical illusion of protrusion," said Juarez. "We also do some art work in there, which creates Montgomery glands, so it's really life-like."

A nurse suggested the tattoos to breast cancer survivor Karey Reeder. At just 38 years old, Reeder was diagnosed with breast cancer, opting for a double mastectomy to remove both of her breasts.

"The mastectomy was really rough, I didn't expect it to hurt so much, and then I had several surgeries for reconstruction," said Reeder.

Hesitant to go into yet another surgery to recreate the look of her areolas, Reeder tried out temporary tattoos to see if Juarez's special tattoo procedure might be a good fit.

"I tried out the temporary tattoos, kind of as a joke, and I found out it really changed how I felt about myself and I immediately called Sherah," said Reeder.

The tattoos are covered by insurance -- Juaraez makes it a priority to ensure patients are left to hassle with coverage.

For Reeder, it was her last step to feeling like a woman again.

"Now, when I get out of the shower and see what was missing, now I feel normal again," Reeder said.

And it's that gratification that fuels Juarez to help more breast cancer survivors.

"Being a part of giving back a part of what's been taken from them -- it's an amazing job," said Juarez.