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After the Mastectomy

There are many options for reconstruction or prosthetics for women who have had a mastectomy. In some cases, surgery can be done that preserves as much skin as possible allowing for immediate reconstruction with breast implants. In a Korean study of 40 women that underwent immediate reconstruction with silicone implants after a mastectomy, 80% were satisfied with their breast’s appearance at eleven months post-op. Six of the cases had complications that affected their outcome, but overall the technique yielded favorable aesthetic results.1

There are several other types of surgeries called “flap procedure” that involve taking tissue from one area of the body and either rotating it or completely transferring it to the chest area to become the new breast. These surgeries are very lengthy and require a generally healthy patient to be successful.

Weakened self-image and self-esteem are very common after a mastectomy or lumpectomy and learning to adjust to the changes in your body can be overwhelming. The American Cancer Society produces a catalog and magazine specifically for women with breast cancer. This publication provides information on different styles of clothing that minimizes the attention drawn to the chest. It also has resources for acquiring prosthetics, which can be purchased directly from the American Cancer Society.3

Breast Forms

Breast forms are a common and very practical prosthetic option that allows women to continue wearing their favorite clothing without any need for surgery. The forms simply slip into the pockets of a specially designed bra to maintain your figure. You can even increase or decrease your bust size by using different-sized breast forms. Mastectomy bras are available in all different styles and colors and also in different types of fabrics. Wicking material is a popular option since it helps to remove moisture from the body that is associated with hot flashes. These bras are designed to be feminine and luxurious in all aspects, really allowing women to feel themselves again.

There is also the option to continue wearing your own bras. Many companies sell removable prosthetics that are made of a gelatin-like material, that slip in and out of your own bra. Breast forms, including the silicone-type, come in a variety of skin tones to allow women to match them to their own skin tone. They are also available in different shapes ranging from teardrop to asymmetric, allowing women to find the one that best matches their own.

Clothing Options

Women may not realize that there are clothing designs that are specially made for women that have had a mastectomy. These clothes are fashionable and accommodate breast forms and are designed to cover scarring. Almost all types of clothing from lingerie to swimsuits are available for use with breast prosthetics.  The busts have pockets that allow for easy insertion of the breast forms for a secure fit and extremely natural appearance. Camisoles are designed with higher coverage under the arm and across the chest but are also quite fashionable. These camisoles are also designed with pockets to allow insertion of breast forms. Turbans, head wraps, hats, scarves and wigs are available to cover the scalp when chemotherapy causes  hair loss.

References

1 Cho, Y., Yang, J., Kim, G., et al. (2010). Immediate Implant Reconstruction using Silicone Prosthesis in Breast Cancer Patients after Skin Sparing Mastectomy. Journal of the Korean Society of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery , 749-757.

2 Cahan, A. C., Palaia, D. A., Rosenberg, M., et al. (2011). The Aesthetic Mastectomy Utilizing a Non–Nipple-Sparing Portal Approach. Annals of Plastic Surgery , 424-428.

3 Learn About Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/MoreInformation/breast-prostheses-and-hair-loss-accessories-list

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.