After a mastectomy, women who choose not to have breast reconstruction can wear a prosthesis (breast form) to restore the visual and physical balance between the affected breast area and the non-affected breast area.
Women who have had partial surgeries may need a form to equalize the size of the breast that has been operated on with the size of her other breast.
For the first few weeks, you may choose to wear a temporary prosthesis. These forms are unweighted. Some temporary forms are simply pillows made of soft batting. Others are formed out of foam. It may take six to eight weeks or longer for all of the swelling from your operation to go down. For this reason, you should not be fitted for a permanent prosthesis until your incision is completely healed and your doctor has given permission. Your doctor can write you a prescription for a prosthesis. You do not need a prescription to buy a prosthesis, however, sometimes a prescription is needed to get reimbursement from your insurance carrier.
A weighted form that is properly fitted is important to your health. When a breast is removed the body is no longer in balance and will compensate with a slight curving of the spine and "shoulder drop". Both conditions may lead to chronic lower back and neck pain.
The majority of weighted breast prostheses are made of silicone gel. They are similar to the forms used for breast implants but are "cured" and are not in a liquid state. The "Traditional" old style form is made with a baked silicone and has a slightly porous texture.
Today, there are hundreds of sizes and styles that fit all body and skin types. There are certified fitters who can assist you in finding the right prosthesis for you. If you go to a fitter, then it is only fair that you purchase your prosthesis from them. While we can advise you over the phone, there is an obvious advantage to being fitted in person.
To find a fitter in your area, try local medical supply stores, pharmacies, department stores(Nordstrom), specialty lingerie shops and wig shops. Your local American Cancer Society can often provide you with a list specific to your area.
Today, there are extensive lines of brasseries with pockets to hold your prosthesis. You can wear your favorite bra though. Many choose to have a pocket sewn into their own fashion bra. If you choose a mastectomy bra, you will find that most have the following features.
- full coverage of breast area (as opposed to low cuts that may not contain the entire breast form)
- wider band around the torso to prevent the bra from creeping up
- less seams that may irritate around the breast and under the arm
- some mastectomy bras have pockets under the arm that can be padded to provide for more radical surgeries.
Types of Prostheses
Today most breast forms are made of silicone gel with a thin polyurethane
encasing. Older style forms were
made out of a baked silicone with a permanent cloth covering. Some new
forms have more than one type of silicone to achieve different levels
of firmness. Listed below are the more common shapes.
- Symmetrical forms can be worn on either side of the body.
- This form is the most general type and is the easiest to fit.
- The extension can be placed up or to the side depending on where
the fill is needed.
- This form has two extensions, one for the upper chest and the
other for under the arm.
- Asymmetrical forms are designed to be worn on one side and
come in right or left side shapes.
- Essentially, a teardrop with one portion having a slight extension
for the upper chest wall.
- Extended Triangle
- One of the lower corners of the triangle is extended for fill
under the arm.
- Thin shelled forms are designed to be worn over existing breast
tissue and generally serve to augment the size. Some women choose
to use these to enhance the size of normal breasts.
- A half form that is used to augment size.
- Attachable breast forms
- A newer type of form that is temporarily attached with adhesive
mounted Velcro strips or surgical cement. See NEARLY ME's new
Silicone Security Patches
that attach any silicone breast form with a new adhesive gel.
- Attachable nipples
- Nipples that are attached with adhesive.
A Radical Mastectomy (also called the "Halsted radical" after
the surgeon who developed the procedure) was the standard treatment
for breast cancer for more than 70 years. This surgery removes the breast,
the chest muscles, all of the underarm lymph nodes, and some additional
fat and skin.
The Modified Radical Mastectomy removes the breast, the underarm
lymph nodes, and the lining over the chest muscles. Sometimes the smaller
of the two chest muscles is also removed. This procedure is also called
a "total mastectomy with axillary (underarm) dissection" and is the
most common treatment of early stage breast cancer today. Survival rates
are the same as for the radical mastectomy when cancer is treated in
its early stages.
The Total or Simple Mastectomy removes only the breast. Sometimes
a few of the underarm lymph nodes closest to the breast are removed
to see if the cancer has spread beyond the breast. It may be followed
by radiation therapy.
A Partial or Segmental Mastectomy is a procedure where the tumor
is removed along with a wedge of normal tissue surrounding it, including
some skin and the lining of the chest muscle below the tumor. It is
followed by radiation therapy. many surgeons also remove some or all
of the lymph nodes to check for possible spread of cancer.
A Lumpectomy removes only the breast lump and may be followed
by radiation therapy.