His art makes women “feel whole again.”
What’s a tattoo artist doing working with a plastic surgery practice?
And how is his work such an important part of a breast cancer patient’s recovery – both physically and psychologically?
Hyannis tattoo artist Mark Corliss, who specializes in Japanese designs, isn’t like most others involved in a woman’s breast cancer world. He has perfected the design and execution of a true-to-life breast nipple with tattoo art for women who have lost theirs due to mastectomies.
“Until we met Mark, we were reconstructing nipples ourselves,” said Hyannis plastic surgeon Michael Loffredo, MD, who works closely with Corliss. “But replicating the areola was very difficult. That is not the expertise of plastic surgeons. The challenge was creating the right pigment and dimension.”
The women who receive Corliss’ body art are incredibly grateful.
“These women have been through hell, and rather than being saddened, I find myself empowered by them,” he said. “When I can tattoo them, they tell me they feel whole again.”
His relationship with Dr. Loffredo and fellow plastic surgeon at Cape & Islands Plastic Surgery, Seth Jones, MD, has helped Corliss see how the three-dimensional, customized nipple tattoos positively affect the outcome of a patient’s surgery.
“Mark plays a big role in the reconstruction process,” said Dr. Loffredo. “It’s the finishing step on a long journey that begins with the mastectomy and builds toward restoring the breast to be as natural as possible.”
Corliss does not charge women for the tattoos, although elsewhere around the country, many tattoo artists are charging between $400 to $600 per breast.
To date, Corliss has tattooed more than 400 women. Add that up he is forgoing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income. His schedule is booked into 2018.
“I have women coming in from all over the country, and it’s very hard for some of them to travel here due to the cost. It’s not right to charge them. I make my living doing Japanese-style tattoos. This is my opportunity to make someone feel whole again. Art does heal.”
Women discover Corliss through their doctors, social media and word of mouth, he said.
“There is a large, powerful group of survivors who constantly help one another and pass on advice and help.”
Breast Reconstruction Starts
A breast cancer patient’s breast reconstruction journey starts after their mastectomy, when a plastic surgeon like Dr. Loffredo or Dr. Jones takes over from the breast surgeon.
“The day before the first surgery, we will see the patient in our office and perform all the necessary markings. We then coordinate with her surgeon to determine exactly where the incision will be made and to develop a plan for skin removal to get the best cosmetic outcome,” explained Dr. Loffredo.
“As soon as the mastectomy is complete, Seth or myself enter the room, consult with the surgeon as to how the operation has gone, and then take over while the patient is still asleep.
“Our initial surgery involves imbedding a temporary expander of the skin and muscle, which will slowly fill until it eventually is replaced with a silicone gel implant about three months after the mastectomy.”