Why use tattoos to mark area?

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Question from Sandy: Why are tattoos used instead of markers, which will eventually wash off?
Answers - Lydia Komarnicky, M.D. Most radiation oncology facilities will use the initial marking pen for the initial setup. However, when the field has been defined, tattoos will be placed in the corners of the field to make sure that the field is as accurate as possible each day.

Occasionally, if patients refuse tattoos, I have been coerced into allowing marking pen marks only, but it's not my preference. It's always nice to have a permanent map by virtue of using tattoos so that you know where the previous radiation field was in case you need to treat the other side. There is no question as to where the prior field went.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. Tattoos are really, really tiny, and magic marker marks tend to be thick and imprecise. If you're finished treatment and you have a tattoo that shows and gets in the way of your wearing a low-cut dress or your favorite bathing suit, then it's OK to go to a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon to have the tattoo at the top center of the chest paled or removed with a laser.

Some doctors prefer to make a teeny incision to remove it, if it really is unacceptable to you. We can use the rest of the tattoos to reconstruct prior radiation if that ever needs to be determined.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Radiation Therapy Updates featured Lydia T. Komarnicky, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about advances in radiation therapy: the newest and best techniques, combining radiation therapy with other treatments, ways to manage, reduce or eliminate side effects, and more.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in March 2004.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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