Women who have undergone mastectomies often have not only cancerous breast tissues removed, but their nipples as well.
To help these women regain their confidence after surgery, one Israeli breast cancer survivor has turned her home into a custom silicone nipple factory to produce realistic and easily worn prosthetics for fellow survivors.
Michelle Kolath-Arbel was not a prosthetic specialist when she decided to design a customized, silicone nipple. Instead, Kolath-Arbel was a young, breast cancer survivor upset with the fact that current mastectomy procedures gave her few options for a natural looking nipple replacement.
“When I realized my nipple would be removed with my breast, I was crying so much because this is something permanent,”Kolath-Arbel said. “I shopped around and tried to find a solution.”
She purchased a few stick-on solutions from Asia and the US, but none suited her tastes or gave her the confidence she needed. Figuring that there must be other women like her, Kolath-Arbel decided to design her own.
“I just started making them,” the former marketing professional said of her new venture. “I thought if I’m crazy enough to do this, I hope there are other crazy women like me not settling for a bad solution.”
To get the expertise she needed, she enrolled in a silicone prosthetic course and worked hard to develop both pre-made and customized nipples to suit her customers needs. Now her start-up, Pink Perfect, has designed prosthetic nipples for over 200 clients.
“Most customers are post-mastectomy, and they take a mold of their other nipple so I can match it,” Kolath-Arbel said of her customers, which come from both Israel and abroad. “With a double mastectomy, they choose whatever they want. Some girls always wanted pinker nipples, and they can have that now.”
The prosthetic nipples, which are applied with glue and require no surgery, have also been praised by breast reconstruction experts for their realistic and non-surgical option for mastectomy patients.
The Pink Perfect nipples “essentially complete our breast reconstruction operation,” Dr. Yoav Barnea of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center said, stressing that the innovative and low-tech solution offers women the ability to have nipples that are the same shape and color as their own, helping many survivors to regain confidence after breast surgery.