If you have recently gone through a mastectomy then you will likely have found it a highly distressing and upsetting experience. You may have had a long recovery and been in a lot of pain, but often it is the altered body image that most women have the most difficulty adapting to. As such, the scars will be psychological as well as physical and it is important to do everything you can in order to feel good again and to feel normal.
A mastectomy means the removal of one or both breasts, and this is often a result of cancer. As such the body image changes when you experience the loss of the breast and this is something that you will likely want to hide or alter in order to help you come to terms with it. Fortunately this is just the role of the mastectomy bra, which is designed to help deal with the aftermath of surgery by helping your breasts to look as they once did.
Mastectomy bras work by having a small area included that acts as a pocket or ‘pouch’ which can then hold a prosthetic breast, thus enlarging the appearance of one or both breasts. These prosthetic breasts work a lot better than simply stuffing a bra with tissue or another material as they are specifically designed for the task – being the right consistency and weight and often including a ‘nipple’ that you can select to be the same size and shape as yours if you find yours are visible through the bra.
If you have a good mastectomy bra you will forget that you are wearing one and no one will be any the wiser. Having to constantly re-adjust can remind you of your situation and can leave you looking unusual until you spot the problem. Similarly they should be comfortable and the actual bra itself should be pleasant too. As the area is likely to be very sensitive they should also be made from the softest fabric to prevent irritation that you might now get from a normal bra.
Thus the main thing to look for when shopping for a mastectomy bra is comfort – if you forget you are wearing it it will be more comfortable, more satisfying and likely more convincing. First of all then, look into the material and one of the best types here are breathable materials. These are made from fabrics such as silk, rayon and cotton and are soft and less irritable. These will let your skin breath and are less absorbent meaning they’ll feel lighter and will not cause you to sweat too much under your prosthetic. At the same time check the inside for seams and stitches which can scratch or itch the skin. Test the material with a lightweight with cups to hold your breast forms.
Some bras are made especially for post surgery meaning that they are soft enough and comfortable enough to be worn immediately after trauma so that they will not rub or hurt your trauma area. You can ask your doctor or the hospital staff who should be able to recommend a good bra for this purpose. Some women will choose to use these bras permanently even after they have mostly recovered for the added comfort.
You also need to look carefully into the materials you are going to use to fill the bras. These are prosthetics or ‘breast forms’ and they come in many varieties just like real breasts. The material for one will vary from fibrefill forms to silicone forms, foam forms and gel forms with each having advantages and disadvantages. They vary in price, weight, feel and appearance and while a silicone or gel form will likely give you the most weight and best feel and appearance, the foam and fibrefill forms will provide you with a lighter and softer solution that will be less noticeable when you are wearing them. In some cases however getting a slightly heavier breast form will help your back which will have grown accustomed to compensating for a heavier chest. At the same time, where only one breast has been removed it can be relieving to feel that they are both roughly equal weight. Of course the more substantial materials will also cost slightly more. If you can afford it, having various forms for different occasions might be most suitable.
When choosing your prosthetic you should also look into the size as well as the inclusion of a nipple. Some women will want to have the nipple in built so that it protrudes in the same way as their old ones and particularly where they still have one of their own breasts. Again care must be taken to pick out a prosthetic with the correct sized and positioned nipple (it is possible to buy the nipples separately however and you can then place these in yourself afterwards). Size wise you should also try to match your other breast if appropriate, but if you have lost both then you can choose your cup size which is at least one advantage to the situation. Mimicking your old breast size and weight however can help with your own body image and also with any back or neck pain.
At the same time you should also pick a bra that looks good. You will want several for different occasions just as you would normally. Do not try to hide your new breasts, but instead try to come to terms with it by still buying attractive and well designed bras. Just like ordinary bras mastectomy bras come in all shapes, sizes, colours and materials from black lacy numbers to sexy pink silky ones. And in some cases you may now be able to fill them even more than before.