Many of our articles go on about how tattoos are a form of art that says something deep about the person who wears them. While this is true, tattoos can also serve another very important purpose—they can deliver a message. Cancer tattoos are somewhat rare, but their main purpose matches that of a message. Rather than display something important about the person wearing it, the tattoo is meant to be a conversation starter that raises awareness. People who would normally pass by the person will now see something that could start a conversation. Those interested in either tattoos or cancer support will always stop to have a chat once they see the design, which is exactly what the tattoo was intended to do. Here are different types of cancer tattoos, different ways to portray them, and the message they deliver.
Cancer Ribbon Tattoos
We have previously covered breast cancer tattoos, but we’ve never gone into depth about the other types of cancer ribbon tattoo designs available for people who want to raise awareness. The general appearance of the ribbons is unchanging—they are the same shape, with one side folded over the other. Their color is what determines what kind of cancer they are raising awareness for. Whether it’s pink for breast cancer, gray for brain cancer, gold for childhood cancer, or even zebra-patterned for carcinoid cancer, those who are aware of the colors are quick to recognize them and start a conversation.
Many companies are quick to slap on a ribbon to gain raised sales, but just because they have a cancer ribbon, that doesn’t mean the company is actually contributing any money at all to cancer research or relief. If you intend to get a cancer ribbon tattoo, you should be well-versed in how to donate to such organizations, or even have a history of donating yourself. Otherwise, you might be raising awareness, but the money you spent on that tattoo may have been better spent on research or donations. Figuring out what kind of research organizations to donate to is difficult, since cancer research is riddled with pitfalls, but credible organizations like the Make A Wish Foundation will support cancer patients in ways that don’t require a cure, so you might want to consider those. Whatever you decide, the money is very well spent.
Cancer Memorial Tattoos
As the average lifespan is increasing around the world, cancer is becoming a more prevalent form of death. Appearing in hundreds of different forms, and happening as a natural part of an aging process present in all of us, it is difficult for doctors and physicians to treat everyone promptly and successfully. The result is that those unlucky people leave behind millions of loved ones every year. Tattoos have always been used as a way to commemorate the lives of others, and cancer memorial tattoos are no exception.
Tattoos are forever, making them one of the best ways to immortalize those who left before us. Most often, designs are winged ribbons or ribbons wrapping around a cross, combine with date of birth and date of death. Other ways to get a cancer memorial tattoo are more straightforward: you can get a portrait of the person and combine it with a date. My favorite type of cancer memorial tattoo focuses more on the personality of the subject, rather than their disease. A favorite animal or activity combined with a date and a ribbon gets the same message across, along with the personality of the deceased. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s something that the deceased would love to look at and be proud of. It’s for them, after all.
Cancer Survivor Tattoos
It’s hard to call yourself a cancer survivor. It takes months—sometimes years—before you can positively say that you’re clean of a disease. Surgeries, chemo, constant hospital visits, and all kinds of things add up to a difficult journey that very few are able to make. But if you are one of the lucky few, or if you are proud of someone who made it, then I am happy to say that there are tons of designs for you.
As with the other two types of cancer tattoos, cancer survivor tattoos are focused on the ribbon symbolism that we’ve picked up. Adding an eloquently-scripted ‘survivor’ somewhere on or near the ribbon is a quick way to get your point across. Quotes about victory or war are a more subtle way to say that you’re a survivor—and they’re sure to start a conversation with others. As someone who personally went through the terrors of cancer, you can truly raise awareness through your body and words. You are a pillar of hope for those still afflicted by cancer and a critical point of information for those who aren’t.
Skin Cancer Tattoos
Of course, those who are predisposed to cancer have a good reason to be worried about getting skin cancer from tattoos. Those with skin cancer may also want to learn ways to avoid aggravating the condition. A good rule of thumb for getting a tattoo is never to color a mole or raised freckle. It’s possible that these moles could develop into a cancerous one at a later stage, and if it’s covered with a tattoo, it will be difficult to notice. If you are at risk of getting skin cancer or have a history of skin cancer, I would not recommend a tattoo at all. It could aggravate a condition you already have or a condition you don’t know about. For everyone else, many researchers insist that tattooing is a safe practice, and I am inclined to agree with them.
If you are struggling with cancer or wanting to support cancer, getting a cancer tattoo is a good way to start a conversation with others. Remember to be prepared with information about research, organizations, and ways to support—after all, that’s the best way to raise awareness! If your activism can prevent just one person from taking the same lonely, difficult, excruciating journey that you know so well—then your cancer tattoo is worth it.
If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out our other articles on InkDoneRight! We have a whole article dedicated to breast cancer tattoo designs, tons of galleries to browse through (White Ink or Simple Tattoos for example), historical articles that detail the past of tattoos as art, and how-to articles.