Tattoos and permanent markers – there may be another option

Skin Marks and Radiation Tattoos. Drawing marks on a patient’s skin, or marking dots with a permanent tattoo has been a common step in the process of radiation therapy. In certain cases, AlignRT can eliminate the need for tattoos and permanent markers.

The role of the marks and tattoos allows your radiation team to know exactly where on your breast to treat each day. These small tattoos and skin marks can provide alignment to the desired treatment area and are used as a guide at each one of your radiation treatment visits. On average, patients receive three to four markings.

For some individuals, radiation tattoos do not bother them. The needle itself can feel like a needle prick or bee sting. And, in the long term, patients may not notice or be bothered by the permanent marking. Some even see it as a reminder of their journey through their breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, if you feel tattoos are not right for you, it is possible to have the same treatment accuracy or better using other techniques.

Some centers do not use tattoos but will mark out the area to be treated with pens and or stickers. It is important that these skin marks are kept for the duration of treatment to allow for accurate positioning each day. You will need to be careful when bathing and washing not to remove these marks.

The good news is there are new technologies that can eliminate the need for tattoos or skin marks. AlignRT® uses thousands of virtual tattoos using light on your skin. This helps position you with submillimeter accuracy and tracks your position during treatment, to ensure you are only treated in the correct position. AlignRT® has been shown in several studies to be more accurate than either marks or tattoos for ensuring patients are properly positioned prior to radiotherapy. AlignRT® can also be used to automatically pause the radiation if you move out of the desired position during treatment.