60 Small Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas and Sayings


Cake values integrity and transparency. We follow a strict editorial process to provide you with the best content possible. We also may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more in our affiliate disclosure.

Whether you lost someone to cancer or you’ve experienced cancer yourself, a cancer memorial tattoo is a powerful way to raise awareness. If you’re wondering what to do in memory of someone, creating body art around this cause is a touching tribute and a way to keep their memory close. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

Because many people don’t know where to begin, especially if this is their first tattoo, we’ve compiled some common cancer memorial tattoo ideas. These are small cancer memorial tattoos that are easy to dedicate to someone special, yourself, or the cause itself. 

Cancer can be a devastating diagnosis, but it doesn’t mean the end of the fight. A cancer memorial tattoo makes a great gift for cancer patients and also a heartwarming memorial. No matter how you spread awareness, make sure it’s meaningful for you. 

Post-loss tip: If you'd like some guidance through the complex tasks you may be facing after losing a loved one to cancer, our post-loss checklist can help. 

Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas for Mom or Dad

When a parent has cancer, it’s hard to help them through this. Suddenly the child becomes the caretaker, and this burden is heavy to carry. If you’ve lost a mom or dad to cancer, here are some touching cancer memorial tattoo ideas to keep their memory close. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

1. Cancer ribbon

The first idea is also the most common. The classic ribbon design is a well-known way to draw attention to a cause, whether it’s cancer or another illness.

This cancer ribbon makes a great memorial tattoo, and some colors represent different types of cancer. 

2. Angel wings

If your loved one is no longer around, they’re still always watching over you. Honor your new guardian angel with a gorgeous angel wings tattoo. 

3. Dates

Sometimes important dates are more than just a number on the calendar. Memorialize your mom or dad’s birthday, anniversary, or another special day with a tattoo featuring these dates. This way, you’ll always feel them close.

4. Feather

Another common memorial tattoo is to use a feather design. Feathers are seen as a sign of a guardian angel in Christianity.

They’re also commonly referred to as a good luck charm. Bring yourself new luck as you honor your loved one with a feather tattoo. 

5. Flower

Flowers are as strong as they are beautiful. While cancer might have extinguished your parent’s life, it can’t crush your mom or dad’s beauty and spirit. This is something that lives on even after death. 

6. Heartline

Another common tattoo idea that’s used if someone passes away from cancer is a heartline or a lifeline.

This resembles the beating heart that you might see on a heart monitor or computer screen. It reminds you that life is always worth living, even when times get tough. 

7. Heart

A simple cancer memorial tattoo idea is to simply use a heart. This classic is always in style, and it’s a discreet way to honor your love for your parents without drawing too much attention. Color the heart in the same color as your parent’s cancer awareness ribbon for extra meaning. 

Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas to Remember Your Experience With Cancer

If you’ve survived cancer, congratulations. This is one of life’s biggest obstacles, and you’re living proof that you’re stronger than you think. Though others aren’t as lucky, honor your experience with a memorial tattoo to your own strength.

8. Survivor

If you’re a cancer survivor, honor this experience with a tattoo that reads ‘survivor.’

Whether this is paired with a memorial ribbon or another symbol that carries meaning for you, this is a powerful reminder of your own perseverance. 

9. Infinity symbol

You are stronger than you know, and this is summed up with an infinity symbol. Like this curving symbol, your life continues on and on. There’s no stopping you, no matter what gets in your way. 

10. Tree

Like the strongest tree, you might bend, but you refuse to break. The winds might be rough sometimes, but you stand strong in the face of adversity. 

11. Cross or religious symbol

You might not have made it through alone. If your faith helped you along the way, honor this dedication to your religion with a Christian cross or another religious symbol that’s meaningful to you.

This is a reminder that you’re never really alone, no matter how dark things may seem. 

12. Cloud or lightning

Thunder and lightning might be scary, but it’s only temporary. Sunny days are ahead if you have the patience to wait for the break in the clouds. Honor your struggle through one of life’s biggest, darkest storms with a cloud or lightning memorial tattoo. 

13. Butterfly

Butterflies undergo some of the biggest transformations on their journey to beauty.

Though they start as small caterpillars and need a period alone as they cocoon, they ultimately transform. Like the butterfly takes flight, so do you into this new stage of life. 

14. Arrow

Last but not least, honor yourself as the warrior you are with an arrow tattoo. This simple tattoo design is a way to recognize your strength through all things.

Even if things might get you down, you’ll see your arrow and know it always strikes true. 

Ideas for Cancer Memorial Tattoo Sayings

Finally, there are many sayings that work great with tattoos. If you’re hoping to memorialize your experience or a loved one’s experience with cancer, you don’t need to search for the right words because we’ve found them for you.

This also makes one of the best last day of chemo gift ideas.

15. “Warrior”

Anyone who undergoes cancer is a warrior regardless of the outcome. There are few things in life as difficult and frustrating. Knowing that you’re not in control of your body is terrifying, but it also brings out our inner warriors. 

16. “Carpe diem” 

“Carpe diem” is Latin for “seize the day.” Likewise, as anyone who has come close to cancer knows, it’s always important to live each day like your last.

Who knows what the future will bring? We might only have this moment, so make the most of every second. 

17. “Forever in my heart”

For someone who is no longer around, honor their memory with “forever in my heart.” Though they may no longer physically be there with you, their spirit is never far. These are the memories that last a lifetime. 

18. “Have courage” 

Courage isn’t necessarily the absence of fear. It’s being afraid and still doing it anyway.

Many make the mistake of thinking they lack courage if they’re worried about cancer or what the future may bring. In reality, they take courageous steps each and every day. 

19. “One day at a time”

When living with cancer or after cancer, take each day one step at a time. Though things might seem challenging, it’s easier if you break it down into simpler pieces. Live in the moment, and live each day one at a time. 

20. “The present is a gift”

As anyone who has come close to death knows, the present is truly a gift.

It’s never guaranteed, and there’s no telling what tomorrow brings. In the meantime, we must learn to focus on today and take advantage of every moment. 

21. “Forever a fighter”

When life throws challenges your way, it’s easy to fall into the mentality of thinking the world is against you.

You’re not a victim. Whether you have cancer, lost a loved one to cancer, or you’re anxious about the future, you’re always a fighter. This is a status you bring with you through all of life’s ups and downs.

Breast Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas

As one of the most common forms of cancer, most people know at least once person affected by breast cancer. Whether you’re supporting someone through treatment or you’re a survivor yourself, there are many compelling reasons to consider one of these breast cancer memorial tattoo ideas. 

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

22. Pink ribbon with heart

The breast cancer awareness ribbon is a pink loop and can be the perfect half of a heart. Ribbons are a subtle yet powerful way to show support for a worthy cause, especially for small tattoos. 

23. Pink butterflies

Not only are butterflies beautiful, but they’re a symbol of rebirth and strength. The wings of a pink butterfly resemble the looping of the pink breast cancer ribbon, but the butterfly has symbolism all on its own. 

24. “Hope”

The word “hope” has long been associated with the fight against breast cancer. Though there is currently no cure, survivors and their loved ones still hope for a brighter tomorrow. As long as hope is alive and well, those who lost their lives are remembered with grace. 

25. Thorns on a rose

Every rose has its thorns. Known for their beauty and delicate nature, roses are tougher than they look. Their wild thorns protect them from harm. As anyone with breast cancer knows, roses are better because they’re so strong. 

26. Flower crown

A crown of flowers is the perfect way to represent someone who lost the battle to breast cancer. Through their strength, they found true beauty. A crown lives on after the petals on the flowers have died. Just like the wearer, they’ll always be remembered. 

27. Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are small but mighty birds. Symbols of lightness and joy, they’re thought to fight away negativity. The perfect symbol for a strong warrior, it’s easy to see why so many breast cancer survivors love hummingbirds. 

Lung Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas

Though most people don’t think about lung cancer, it’s the second most common cancer (not counting skin cancer). The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death. If you know someone affected by lung cancer, honor his or her fight with one of these memorial tattoo ideas.

28. “Just breathe”

Breathing is something we all take for granted—until we can’t. For those living with lung cancer, air takes on new importance. 

29. Dandelion in the breeze

Another symbol for air is a dandelion in the breeze. Though beautiful, it’s not afraid to sway in the breeze. This makes a powerful yet subtle lung cancer tattoo. 

29. Lungs

Of course, there are many ways to use the image of lungs as tattoo inspiration. These are commonly left as medical depictions or with the addition of flowers or other special elements. 

30. Incense

In many religions, incense is used to represent purification and sanctification. It’s a way to experience spiritual release and can also be seen as a way to achieve peace after a loss. 

31. Yoga tattoos

Different yoga symbols each represent a different aspect of life and spirituality. Perfect for representing healing and eternity, this can connect you to someone you’ve lost. Yoga means different things to different people, but it brings cultures and people together. 

32. Sparrow

This special bird is a symbol of finding joy in the little things. One of the most popular classic tattoos, sparrows are fighters who solve any problem life throws their way.

33. Tree of life

Finally, the tree of life carries a lot of meaning for those who have experience with lung cancer. A tree barren of leaves resembles a pair of lungs, while this image also represents the persistence of life. 

Pancreatic Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas

Another often-overlooked cancer is pancreatic cancer, affecting hundreds of thousands across the globe. Throughout the stages of this disease, healthy cells in the pancreas stop working correctly. The cancerous cells form a tumor, preventing the pancreas from functioning and regulating hormones. These pancreatic cancer memorial tattoo ideas are as meaningful as they are beautiful. 

34. Dragonfly

Beautiful insects, dragonflies are a symbol for change and self-realization. A subtle and meaningful tattoo, a dragonfly, can be a great way to show support for pancreatic cancer. 

35. Moon and stars

When we look at the moon and stars, we’re reminded that existence goes beyond our understanding. Though simple, a reminder that those we love always watch over us can bring peace. 

36. Scale

Since pancreatic cancer affects the body’s ability to find hormonal balance, a scale is a common way to represent living with pancreatic cancer. Showing a scale finally at balance is a special tribute. 

37. Kite

Traditionally, kites are used to show fate and prophecy. They’re also a way to support someone’s freedom. 

38. Daisy

Known for their cheerful nature, daisies symbolize innocence and purity. According to Celtic legends, Gods sprinkled daisies over the earth in the spring to honor the lost children in the world. 

39. Roman numerals

Roman numerals are a popular way to honor someone you’ve lost. You can mark any special date in a subtle, beautiful way, creating something that carries meaning for you alone. 

40. Lotus

Lastly, the lotus flower has a lot of meanings throughout the world. In Buddhism, it’s a way to show resilience and rebirth. 

Brain Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas

The brain connects us to our feelings and who we are. Brain cancer can be one of the scariest types of cancer, and it’s normal to feel fear going through this process. Whether you’re supporting a loved one or honoring someone who passed, this is a fight worth remembering. The right brain cancer memorial tattoo raises awareness and brings hope in a time of loss. 

41. Brain

Of course, an obvious brain cancer tattoo idea is a brain. As the symbol for our souls and thinking function, hold a reminder of the brain's power everywhere you go. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

42. Light bulb

Similarly, light bulbs are a way to reflect the light and creativity of the brain. 

43. Gear

Third, the brain is often compared to a gear in a machine. Without this gear, nothing else works according to plan. 

44. Skull

Skulls carry a lot of meaning in pop culture and history. A skull reminds us that life is fleeting, but it also shows that our legacies live long after we're gone. 

45. Lightening

Like a strike of lightning, some lives are brief yet powerful. You can see them in the distance and feel their thunder when they’re gone. 

46. Owl

Owls have long been a symbol of wisdom and intelligence. Known as the brains of the animal world, what does the all-knowing owl represent for you?

46. Dragon

In many cultures, particularly in Asia, dragons are symbols of wisdom. They represent power, luck, and magic. This carries a lot of meaning for anyone who has battled brain cancer, regardless of the outcome.

Colon Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas

Beginning in the large intestine, this digestive cancer most often affects older adults. One of the most treatable cancers, pre-screening can make a huge difference in treatment and outlook. This is why it’s never been more important to spread awareness about colon cancer and regular screenings. A colon cancer memorial tattoo does just that.

47. Peacock

A symbol of confidence, this beautiful bird makes the perfect tattoo. Whether you choose the full depiction or just a feature, the peacock has long been used to share a message of grace and self-expression. 

48. Circle 

A circle quite literally shows wholeness. Completion doesn’t come easily, but it’s also a part of everything that makes us human. Though we constantly change, we are complete just as we are. 

49. Rainbow

A rainbow is a symbol of new beginnings. After a rainstorm, keep your eye on the sky to see the light shining through. Often thought to be a reminder that a loved one is watching over you, these make beautiful memorial tattoos. 

50. Phoenix 

The phoenix is a mythological bird that’s known to appear from its own ashes. Though it might not live forever, it’s always waiting for an opportunity for rebirth. A symbol of newness and change, a phoenix tattoo is a special tribute. 

51. Peace sign

A common image since the 1960s, a peace sign is a way to show support and togetherness with any cause that’s meaningful to you. 

52. Rain cloud

Who said rain clouds have to be sad? A common symbol for living with cancer, the clouds can’t last forever. Better yet, they bring sunny days. 

53. Compass

A compass is a way to guide yourself to life’s next chapter. Ultimately, you have to trust in fate’s plan. It guides you due North. 

Cervical Cancer Memorial Tattoo Ideas

Finally, cervical cancer continues to affect thousands of women across the globe despite the rise in pre-screening and PAP testing. Previously one of the deadliest types of cancer, more doctors and survivors are advocating for increased awareness and screening than ever before. Whether you’ve personally been affected by cervical cancer or not, these memorial tattoos carry many meanings. 

54. Starfish

The starfish is seen as a celestial symbol in many cultures. Not only do the represent love, but they’re also commonly tied to feminine intuition and wisdom. 

55. Planet

You don’t have to research astrology to see the beauty of the planets. Each planet has its own symbolism. Choose a planet that moves you from Mercury’s intellect and wisdom to Venus’ beauty and love. 

56. Moon

Similarly, the moon is a symbol of femininity. Constantly changing, the moon represents eternity and the longevity of time. Though it’s not always easy to see, you know it’s always there. Nature might have a dark side, but it’s just as beautiful. 

57. Triangle

Another symbol of femininity is the triangle. Each corner represents power, stability, and reproduction. Women can find strength in their bodies and minds, no matter what might come their way. 

58. Swan

Known for their beauty and grace, swans are commonly associated with femininity. Dating back to ancient Greece, swans have long been respected for their connection to love, music, and poetry. Ideal for anyone who loves the arts, a swan is a stunning tattoo idea. 

59. Sun

The sun greets us each day as the start of something new. Though the night might feel endless and dark, the sun will always follow. Above all, we need to hope for a cure in the future. 

60. Sword

Finally, a sword is a symbol of strength and protection. We have strength when we find hope in our togetherness. Evoking a sword—a traditionally masculine symbol—in honor of a strong woman in your life is a beautiful tribute. 

Raise Cancer Awareness with a Cancer Memorial Tattoo

These cancer memorial tattoos above are perfect for anyone who’s come close to cancer. Whether you’ve lost someone special or you’ve finally received your cancer-free diagnosis, there is so much to honor about this process. Getting a tattoo is a permanent reminder of how far you’ve come and how much farther you have to go. 

A small memorial tattoo is a touching tribute, not only for yourself but also for others. Cancer affects everyone in some way, so it’s important to continue raising awareness in ways that mean something to us. 

If you want to honor your loved one in another way, you can start with an online memorial page. An online memorial is a place where family and friends can write tributes and make a donation to a charity organization or funeral expenses. Cake makes it simple and free to create a beautiful online memorial page.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.