Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Social Work (M.S.W.)

Degree Program

School of Social Work

First Advisor

Brandon Youker

Second Advisor

Julia Mason

Third Advisor

Sally Pelon

Academic Year



Mastectomy surgeries often leave surgical scarring in the place of the effected breast tissue. The purpose of this study is to investigate cisgender women who underwent a single or double mastectomy in the United States to learn how they came to their decision to cover their mastectomy scars with tattoos. Additionally, the research seeks to uncover the impact of mastectomy tattoos on mental and emotional well-being. The research used a phenomenological approach to explore the experiences and perceptions of the participants. Fourteen participants were contacted through breast cancer groups on social media and participated in semi-structured interviews via webcam. The data were analyzed using content analysis by first identifying the state of self-esteem and body image before, during, and after the mastectomy surgery as well as how covering the scarring with tattoos altered the participant’s self-esteem and body image. The findings indicate that the decision to tattoo was impacted by social media, breast cancer survivors, and healthcare professionals. Results show that body image and self-esteem positively increased after tattooing. Participants reported that following their surgery their physical and sexual attractiveness decreased; however, after receiving their tattooing they began to feel sexy again. Overall, the fourteen participants reported being satisfied with their decision to tattoo.

Included in

Social Work Commons