For many women with breast cancer, a mastectomy, or removal of the breast, is a necessary part of treatment. Although breast reconstruction is available to most women, some choose to use prosthetics to replace the missing breast(s). If a patient decides to use prosthetics, there are special types of apparel, known as mastectomy clothing, which can help provide comfort and a natural appearance.
Here are some common questions around prostheses and mastectomy clothing:
What is a breast prosthesis?
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A breast prosthesis is an artificial breast that is used to simulate the natural breast and body shape. Depending on the type of surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy), a woman can have full or partial breast prostheses to balance her appearance. The prostheses are typically made out of silicone, foam, or fiberfill and they are worn inside a bra or attached to the body with special adhesive.
What is a mastectomy bra?
A mastectomy bra is a special bra that is designed to hold weighted breast prostheses. The bras can come in a variety of colors and styles and can usually be fitted at the same time as a breast prosthesis fitting.
How soon after surgery can I be fitted for my breast prosthesis and mastectomy bra?
Usually, the fittings take place 6-8 weeks after surgery. It is important patients receive permission from their physicians to move forward with a fitting.
Will my insurance cover my breast prosthesis and mastectomy bra?
Most insurance companies will cover costs for the prosthesis and mastectomy bras, and Medicare will cover them as medically necessary. Patients should get a prescription from their doctor stating their diagnosis and the need for a right or left breast prosthesis and prosthetic bras.
Is other mastectomy clothing available?
There are several brands that offer clothing specifically for patients who use breast prosthesis. It is possible to find almost any type of clothing – tank tops, t-shirts, dresses and swimsuits – that have built-in bras to offer extra support and room for prostheses.
Some articles of mastectomy clothing, such as lingerie and swimsuits, provide pockets to insert prostheses. Post-mastectomy swimsuits often have extra support for prosthesis and rise higher in the back, so a woman can wear a mastectomy bra with the suit. Special water-friendly prosthetic forms are also available, with fast-drying, breathable fabric.
More information on mastectomy clothing – including fittings, consultations and product availability – is available through Dana-Farber’s Friends’ Place. Visit the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber website for more information on breast cancer treatment and research.