For most people, the decision to get a tattoo was made carefully and willingly, but many patients battling cancer were distressed to learn their treatment requires them to get several small tattoos.
The tattoos are required to ensure radiation equipment is properly aligned for the duration of treatment.
To some patients, they’re a badge of honor, but to others, they’re a permanent reminder of their cancer battle.
Now researchers at Henry Ford Hospital are testing a potential alternative.
“These are tiny dots that are barely the size of freckles,” said Vice Chairman of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Health Dr. Farzan Siddiqui. “But unfortunately, these are permanent.”
Siddiqui says most patients require between one and five of these tattoos.
“After these patients who have gone through many weeks of radiation treatment, it is almost a lifelong reminder for them that they have gone through this difficult journey,” Siddiqui said. “So we were looking for something that would fade or fade away over time.”
The researchers reached out to “Ephemeral Tattoo.” The company had already created an ink for recreational tattoos that faded over time, says Chief Technology Officer Brennal Pierre.
“We’ve had so many inquiries from lots of people,” said Pierre. “Is our ink available in hospitals and so forth for this particular application.”
Photos showed how the body naturally broke down the Ephemeral Ink.
“It’s actually very similar to dissolvable stitches,” Pierre said. “You stitch the skin, and essentially they disappear over time.”
The study followed 15 cancer patients who received the made-to-fade ink.
“The main thing that we were looking for was the safety of this tattoo method and the ink, and we found that this was safe,” Siddiqui said.
The tattoos were also just as effective as the permanent versions.
“Sometimes, you know, the little things matter, and in this case, it’s the dots,” Pierre said. “So it makes us feel really good. I mean, this is one of the initiatives that we’ve had as a company that really drives our team to make improvements.”
Siddiqui says the study is currently in the follow-up phase, tracking how the tattoos fade over time.
They’re also assessing how they show up on various skin tones. They plan to collect all of that data in the next 12 to 18 months, then hope to publish their research in a medical journal.
Because they are doing a scientific trial assessing the safety and effectiveness, other institutions could adopt this quickly once the results are published. There will be a lot of interest in seeing how this all turns out, but there is no reason to think it will not become a new standard.