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A member asked:

Tattoos before radiation? i learned that patients get tattoo before the radiation therapy process, what and why are there needs to do so? are they permanent or painful?

2 doctor answers3 doctors weighed in
Dr. Lauren Stegman
Radiation Oncology 28 years experience
Tattoos : Tattoos are sometimes needed for radiation therapy. It depends on the part of the body being treated and the type and amount of radiation being given. If they are necessary the tattoos are only the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen and they look like little freckles. The tattoos are used to line the patient up with special lights in the treatment room in order to make sure that the patient is in the same position every day for the radiation treatments. The tattoos do sting for a moment when they done, but most people think it is less painful than an IV or blood draw. They are generally permanent, but hardly noticeable and could potentially be removed with a laser if they are bothersome.
Dr. Daniel Landis
Radiation Oncology 28 years experience
These : These are very small tattoos, just the size of a pin head, placed such that lasers in the treatment room can line up to the exact same position each day. Usually 3 or 4 are used. It helps ensure accuracy of the treatment delivery. Using temporary markers has been problematic because if they wash off, there is no way to restore the necessary positioning of the patient. It is less painful than a shot, since the needle just goes into the skin a tiny amount. Some people have them laser-removed later on, but i recommend against this because in the future, if radiation is ever needed again, it will be necessary to use this reference point to match future treatment -.

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Last updated Apr 14, 2019

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