Should I wear a Breast Prosthesis? Yes. Wearing a breast prosthesis can help women cope with the aftermath of breast cancer treatment (Wilmoth & Ross, 1997) However, the difficulty ensues in if or how women are advised on the use of prosthetics after surgery. Elevation in anxiety is documented with just a diagnosis of breast cancer and the almost 50% of women who suffer significant depression. After surgery there is a loss of the breast, concern of asymmetry, and a loss of femininity not to mention the inherent fear of cancer returning. Having gone through this process as a patient, and a physical therapist of 20 years, I was shocked to find that I had been given no information, advice, or guidance on any particular piece of information regarding custom bras, prosthetics, or post-surgical wear - all of which could have played a large part in helping me recover not only physically but also mentally. It wasn’t until many years later, I was introduced to this industry and felt it my calling to jump in and help. So what advice can I give you to help make a decision about a breast prosthetic? The initial questions you want to ask are – do you feel unbalanced, how long is the time between mastectomy and reconstruction, is reconstruction an option. Most women describe the first initial fitting process as being a little awkward and emotionally tough. You see us women are used to shopping for fun, we like to take our time, try on everything in the store, and hunt for sales. This is in our DNA – and we want to leave our husbands or boyfriends at home! But shopping for a breast prosthetic is different, it is a necessity and because of something none of us asked for – breast cancer. In reality, it stinks. We would rather be at the mall buying shoes then getting fitted for a prosthesis and trying to feel “whole” again both physically and mentally. Renew was designed to help ease as many of those awkward feelings as possible. It is small, private, cozy, and professional. Being a physical therapist for 20 years, I understand the human body and how the bra and prosthetic can influence posture and body mechanics. Having gone through breast cancer myself, I can also relate to the stories and have the scars to share as well.There are many types of prosthetics that women can use – mostly depending on the stage of breast cancer treatment you are going through. Some are as follows: Post-surgical wear – for use right after surgery, can be worn in the hospital and at home while recuperating. These products have a pocket for the drains to be held and some have “puffs” to fill the garment if reconstruction was not performed. They are easy to get on and off and relatively inexpensive. Post-surgical compression garments – for use after mastectomy with reconstruction after drains are removed. They are used to reduce swelling via compression and easy to get on and off as well with front closures.
Mastectomy bras – look like regular bras but have a pocket inside the bra to hold the prosthesis for use after mastectomy or when asymmetry is present from a lumpectomy. Formal measurements for both bra and breast prosthetic are performed by a certified mastectomy fitter.
Swimwear – especially in Florida! This is a must, there are water resistant prosthetics that fit into our custom bathing suits, so you can feel whole all summer long!
One of the questions I commonly get asked is “will it fall out” - the answer is no. Once a bra has been fitted accordingly the breast prosthesis will fit into a small pocket over the breast area and stays in place unless physically removed. This allows for cleaning when needed or movement to another bra for a different occasion. It does take a little getting used to though, the breast prosthetic does have volume and weight and is designed to look and feel like a real breast. This new weight has an effect on your posture, symmetry and overall well-being. When asked after a fitting how they feel, women were quoted as saying “I was so excited”, I was thrilled” and “It looks just like the other breast in the bra.” The difficulties in this process do not seem to occur once the women have identified a need, found a certified mastectomy fitter, had a fitting, or after the delivery and wear – the difficulties are the significant lack of information regarding the importance of getting a patient to a certified mastectomy fitter prior to their surgery to reassure them all their options available to them after their surgery. I hope this article shed some light on different types of post mastectomy options. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 561. 328.7434 at Renew – The Breast Care Boutique in North Palm Beach, FL and we will be glad to help you. Sincerely, Kelley