LONG BRANCH, N.J. – On the journey to conquering breast cancer, women are left with
reminders. Some may be empowering, while others may not.
For breast cancer survivor Bobbi Rafaloff of Marlboro, five small black
dots known as radiation tattoos that were left behind following the radiation
treatment she underwent 22 years ago are an unwelcome reminder of her
course of treatment. So on May 25, Bobbi turned to a new tattoo-removal
program led by
Stephen A. Chagares, M.D., a board-certified surgeon who specializes in breast surgery and is a
part of the multidisciplinary team of Monmouth Medical Center’s
Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center.
Dr. Chagares has treated many breast cancer patients over his more than
20-year career and understands the importance of supporting patients as
they move forward with their lives. Through a new program utilizing a
PicoWay™laser, he can safely and quickly remove the small black
or blue dots, known as radiation tattoos, that are left as permanent reminders
of the radiation treatment.
Partnering with Monmouth Medical Center plastic and reconstruction surgeon
Andrew Elkwood, M.D., and the physicians of the Plastic Surgery Center
in Shrewsbury, who are donating the use of their practice’s laser,
Dr. Chagares, who is donating his time, uses ultra-short laser pulses
to break the tattoo pigment into tiny particles for the body to remove
“We feel this is a nice thing to do for the community,” says
Dr. Chagares, who says the program is available to anyone, regardless
of who performed their surgery or radiation therapy, and that it was created
for breast cancer patients but is also open to any cancer survivors seeking
removal of radiation tattoos. “It is our way of giving back to the
community and we see it as a gift to individuals who have been through
Noting that he finds that some cancer survivors like their small blue or
black dots – as they see them as battle scars signifying they won
their fight with cancer – he says there are others for whom they
are an unwelcome visual reminder.
Bobbi, who had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation at Monmouth
Medical Center in 1995, underwent genetic counseling seven years later
and discovered that she was a BRCA1 carrier, meaning she was genetically
linked to a higher breast cancer risk. At that time, she opted for the
most common risk-reducing surgery,
bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, also called bilateral risk-reducing mastectomy, and breast reconstruction.
She now is the physician liaison for Dr. Elkwood, and runs a support group
for his patients who are undergoing breast reconstruction following mastectomy.
“A lot of women, me included, feel like they can’t wear certain
necklines or bathing suits because the radiation dots are so visible,”
she said. “This new tattoo-removal program is such a welcome service
for those of us who want to be rid of these visual reminders of our treatment.”
Removal typically takes three sessions, and each session is spaced eight
weeks apart, explains Dr. Chagares, who adds that the typical breast cancer
patient who has undergone radiation treatment will have between four and
six of the radiation marks.
Dr. Chagares will offer the laser radiation tattoo removal program every
other month, with the next session scheduled for July 21. While the service
is complimentary, registration is required. To learn more, call
732-450-9700, or email
Photo caption: Breast cancer survivor Bobbi Rafaloff of Marlboro with surgeon
Stephen A. Chagares, M.D., with the PicoWay™laser Dr. Chagares is
using to safely and quickly remove the small black or blue dots known
as radiation tattoos.
About Monmouth Medical Center
Located in Long Branch, N.J., Monmouth Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas
Health facility, along with The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at
Monmouth Medical Center, is one of New Jersey's largest academic medical
centers. From its earliest days, Monmouth Medical Center has been a leader
in surgical advancement and has introduced many technological firsts to
the region, including robotic surgery and other minimally invasive techniques.
Monmouth Medical Center is the only hospital in Monmouth and Ocean counties
to consistently receive an “A” Hospital Safety Score by The
Leapfrog Group, an independent national nonprofit organization of employer
purchasers of health care and the nation’s leading experts on patient
safety. It is one of eight New Jersey hospitals to receive a four-star
rating from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the highest
hospital rating in the state.
CONTACT: Elizabeth Brennan