Finding the right mastectomy bra is incredibly important. It helps aid the recovery process following a mastectomy and even has the power to help the wearer regain confidence and feel normal again. Wherever possible, taking the time to find a certified mastectomy fitter is a must. They can help you achieve the best possible results as you search for the perfect mastectomy bra for you.
How Certified Fitters Can Help
40% of women who had a mastectomy experienced difficulties finding a properly-fitted, high-quality, mastectomy bra. Walking into Target or Victoria Secret and picking a bra from a wide variety of on-hand options is no longer a luxury if you desire a comfortable, well-fitting bra. Having perfectly tailored options to suit your individual needs is essential; otherwise, you risk a less than comfortable recovery coupled with low self-confidence. When factoring in the cost of the bra, the material it is made from, and the need for a very specific fit, the lack of on-hand options can be understandably frustrating. Thankfully, however, a certified mastectomy fitter can help, offering experience and insight to direct you toward exactly what you want and need in a bra.
Many department stores offer helpful prosthetics services. These typically entail the customer choosing a bra she likes and handing it off to a tailor, who then measures and creates a sort of “pocket” in the bra for a prosthetic insert. Unfortunately, while having these options available is nice, they are not the same as custom mastectomy bras.
The fit, material, and often the craftsmanship of bra prostheses can leave a lot to be desired. Aside from resulting in an unnatural look, they may be ill-fitting to the point of irritation in already sensitive areas. Nothing has the ability to negatively sway your confidence quite like uncomfortable clothing. Wherever you decide to be fitted, having a professional fitter available is important for exactly this reason.
A certified mastectomy fitter has an extensive background and education in post-mastectomy services, and they will be skilled at the ins and outs of breast prostheses. These healthcare allies are typically trained in identifying areas of need (such as finding soft materials that also mesh with personal style) to ensure each woman gets exactly what she wants. When done properly, an ABC Certified Fitter is able to help women feel comfortable in their bodies again. Let’s take a look at some of the recommended mastectomy bra options.
Mastectomy Bra Options
Immediate After-Surgery Bras
Immediately after surgery, many women opt to completely forego a bra, simply because of the drains and other devices required for healing. However, a mastectomy fitter will be able to advise on options for bras specific to this stage of recovery.
Post-surgical camisoles are often an excellent option because they are soft and stretchy, have pockets for drains, and can be pulled on over the hips — an extremely helpful quality when mobility is limited in the first few weeks after surgery. Alternatively, a front-closure mastectomy bra (with pockets for drains) may also be a good option. These are soft and protect scars but look and feel more like a normal bra, which can be important for regaining confidence during the healing process.
For women who choose reconstruction surgery, it may be tempting to simply revert to wearing normal bras, but this is not always the best option. Most bras created specifically for reconstruction surgeries offer more support to reduce stress on the affected area, and some can even provide wider sides for those who wish to cover scarring. One of the best options for reconstruction is a bra that crosses in the front, providing lift and support without a painful underwire.
In most cases, regular bras just do not measure up. In fact, 87% of women who undergo reconstruction prefer specific types of bras, but they have difficulty finding comfortable options. Being able to wear normal bras after a reconstruction is plausible, but most women find they prefer a front-closure, post-surgery bra for the first year post-mastectomy
Mastectomy Bras with Built-in Forms
Other women prefer an “all-in-one” mastectomy bra, made to support and protect while providing a built-in prosthetic form. These bras are less common, but they can be good options when custom prosthetics are not available. They alleviate the concern of the prosthetic moving around during exercise or other activities. Overall, all-in-one bras can be excellent for certain scenarios. However, finding a built-in option that looks as good as a custom prosthetic can be difficult. Every woman’s body is different, and something may look perfectly natural on one woman but not look quite right on another.
Custom Mastectomy Bras
Custom-made mastectomy bras are the best choice for most women because they combine breast prostheses and bras tailor-made for the individual’s body. A certified mastectomy fitter can measure for the perfect prosthetic that looks and acts naturally when combined with the right bra fitting.
This is especially important for women who choose to have a unilateral mastectomy, in which only one breast is removed. The prosthetic will provide a fit and feel for the removed breast that mimics the intact breast, creating a comfortable balance in the body. In addition to the custom prosthetic, the bra itself may also be customized (beyond fit). The options are limitless, but many women choose to have pockets created for their prosthetic(s), as this gives the option to change them out for cleaning and maintenance or to a lighter-weight option for exercise.
Depending on whether or not lymph nodes were removed during surgery, certain mastectomy bras may be better. When lymph nodes are removed, swelling can occur from a blockage of the lymphatic system. However, this fluid buildup (called lymphoedema or lymphedema) is much less likely to occur with the proper mastectomy bra.
A certified mastectomy fitter will be able to provide options with wider straps, a deep side, and even added compression. The wider straps are typically lined with padding to help prevent shoulder tension while still being adjustable for a great fit. The deep side will not irritate the areas near the removed lymph nodes. A compression bra can apply even pressure across areas of swelling to encourage trapped fluid to escape. Roughly 42% of women experience lymphedema after breast cancer surgery, but this can be treated and prevented with proper care — in particular, the right kind of bra.
A Key to Regaining Confidence
Whatever a woman’s mastectomy bra needs are, feeling comfortable when finding her new undergarment is vital. In many cases, it can be the key to regaining confidence after a mastectomy. Studies have shown that, in general, women are uncomfortable with and do not enjoy shopping for mastectomy bras, especially at department stores or other stores that do not offer custom fittings. Forty percent of women who have mastectomies opt to not get a custom fitting, so it comes as no surprise most do not enjoy the experience.
In order to make the experience better, a skilled and certified mastectomy fitter will provide options to fit the individual needs and style of each woman. When specialized needs are not met, looking and feeling confident becomes more difficult.
For More Information
At Horton’s Orthotics and Prosthetics, we pride ourselves on fitting each individual with a carefully tailored prosthesis to help them reach their optimum goals. Our work extends beyond the perfect prostheses to offer guidance, ongoing care, and a lifetime of support.
If you need to be fitted for your perfect mastectomy bra or have any other prosthetic or orthotic needs, Horton’s is here to help. Call 501-214-4191, or visit us online today to start your journey.