Our Women’s Services Specialist is an ABC Certified Mastectomy/Lymphedema Fitter, trained
in the fitting of breast prostheses after breast surgery.
Mastectomy a surgical operation to remove a breast. About 44% of women diagnosed with breast cancer chose to have a mastectomy performed. Of those 44% only 7% chose to have immediate reconstruction.
What are the options for the remaining 37% of Women?
Breast Prosthesis is a contoured device, resembling breast tissue, made of silicone or foam and it is to be worn inside a pocketed bra. This helps to regain balance along the chest wall and re-creates a pre-surgery appearance.
Lumpectomy a surgical procedure where only the malignant tumor and margin of healthy breast tissue is removed. Also, called “breast conserving surgery”. * Lymph nodes may also be removed.
What is your options for regaining balance?
Partial Breast Prostheses- is a thin silicone or foam insert designed to fit over remaining breast tissue to create balance with the non-surgical breast.
Stage of Healing
Immediately After Surgery*
Camisole/Fiber Filled Prostheses A camisole gives minimal support for the non-surgical breast, while still providing comfort. This garment comes with removable drainage pouches for post-surgical drainage bulbs as well as a fiber- filled breast form to help recreate symmetry. These garments are great for post op and/or during radiation treatments because they are soft and light weight. This style garment is available in both a short and long style.
Less than six weeks after surgery*
Cotton Stretch Bra This is a very soft and stretchable garment that is a front closure which allows for minimal arm motion. It also contains pockets to help hold the prosthesis in place. This garment is recommended for low levels of activity.
Weighted or Non-weighted Foam Prostheses These prostheses are used during the final stages of healing when comfort and ease is still a primary need. The weighted prosthesis allows just enough weight to keep the prosthesis down in the pocket of the bra and prevents the prosthesis from “floating”. However, these garments can also be worn during low activity anytime throughout the patient’s life.
More than six weeks after surgery*
Traditional Fashion Bra Once the patient is completely healed it is recommended they return back to a post mastectomy fashion bra. CPO offers all pocketed garments in a variety of styles and colors.
Silicone Prostheses The silicone breast prosthesis offers the most natural feel and look for women who have had a mastectomy.
Life after breast surgery*
Just as before the surgery it is important to build a wardrobe of choices. It is important to keep a variety of styles of bras and prostheses. Multiple options will provide many different combinations that allow for choices according to your daily activity level.
Frequently Asked Questions-
Q Why is wearing a breast prosthesis important for a post-mastectomy patient?
A While recreating a pre-surgery appearance helps meet the psychological need for a positive self-esteem, the use of a breast prosthesis also serves a physiological purpose by restoring natural balance and carriage of body weight. Not wearing a breast prosthesis, can create:
• Spinal curvature
• Shoulder drop
• Balance problems
• Muscle contracture and stretching/neck and back pain
• Clothing to fit inappropriately due to chest wall variations
Q When wearing a breast prosthesis, why is wearing a post-mastectomy bra recommended?
A A pocketed post-mastectomy bra is advised because…
• The pocketed bra creates security for the prosthesis and allows the form to move with the body.
• The mastectomy bra is designed to allow a higher fit under the arm where tissue may be missing.
• The straps are set closer in the back to help balance the prosthesis weight.
• Side frames help support, anchor, and balance the band around the body.
Q If reconstruction is planned, will a prosthesis be needed?
A Since decisions related to reconstruction need not be scheduled at the time of the initial surgery, patients can choose to bridge the time with a prosthesis that maintains body alignment and provides shape to the individual profile.
Q How often should fittings be repeated?
A It is suggested that new measurements be taken as often as every 6 months until the body has stabilized. Anatomical changes may include swelling, weight loss/gain and changes in shape.
Q When am I allowed to get new garments and/or prostheses?
A Most insurances allow at least 6 new garments per year. Many insurances will say as medically necessary; which is about 8-10 per year. It is important to remember the expected lifetime of a bra is only 6 months. A silicone prosthesis can be replaced once every two
years. And a foam form can get replaced once every six months. However, everyone’s insurance is different and will need to be contacted before new garments and prostheses are provided.
Q Will insurance pay for the prosthesis and bras?
A Many private insurance plans, as well as Medicare, have an allowable reimbursement for these services. It is suggested your insurance be contacted to determine benefits, restrictions and patient responsibilities. CPO will process Medicare and other private insurance claims according to our office policy.
Q Do the silicone or foam prostheses trigger security alarms at airports or in retail department stores?
A Silicone prostheses are not known to trigger alarm systems. However, materials used in the weighted foam prosthesis are made up of a metal/gel weight and could potentially be sensitive to security alarms. If you have a foam prosthesis just be aware that the prosthesis does contain metal. But it does not need to be a concern, it’s just important to be aware. If you are concerned a prescription from your physician can be provided.
Q Can a silicone breast prosthesis be used in the swimming pool, hot tub, or salt water?
A Many manufacturers indicate their products can be used in either a swimming pool or hot tub, but we will suggest that a specifically designed swim form be used if you are in chlorinated water regularly. Otherwise, the breast form you were provided with can be worn in a pool or hot tub. The prosthesis will need to be washed well with a mild soap and left to air dry after each use.