What is a Breast Prosthesis?

An external breast prosthesis is an artificial breast form th Breast Prostheses and Post-Mastectomy Products | Breast Prosthesis/Cosmetic/Reconstructive Breast Surgery | Imaginis - The Women's Health & Wellness Resource Network

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Breast Prostheses and Post-Mastectomy Products

    What is a Breast Prosthesis?

    An external breast prosthesis is an artificial breast form that can be worn after the breast has been surgically removed. There are several different types of prostheses. They may be made from silicone gel, foam, fiberfill or other materials that feel similar to natural tissue. Most are weighted so that they feel the same as the remaining breast (if only one breast has been removed). Some adhere directly to the chest area while others are made to fit into pockets of post-mastectomy bras (see description below). Different types of prostheses may also have different features, such as a mock nipple or special shape. In many cases, a woman will be fitted for a prosthesis so that it can be custom-made for her body. Partial prostheses, called equalizers or enhancers, are also available for women who have had part of their breasts removed.

    What is a Mastectomy and a Post-Mastectomy Bra?

    A mastectomy is a common treatment for breast cancer that involves surgically removing the breast. A modified radical mastectomy is the most common type of mastectomy performed today. This procedure involves removing the breast, nipple/areolar region, and often the axillary (underarm) lymph nodes. Other types of mastectomies include simple mastectomy (removes the breast, with its skin and nipple, but no lymph nodes) and partial mastectomy (remove a portion of the breast tissue and a margin of normal breast tissue). Click here to learn more about mastectomy.

    After a mastectomy, some women will be able to wear their regular bras with few or no adjustments. If the surgical area is especially sensitive after surgery, a bra extender can help increase the circumference around the body and make wearing a bra feel more comfortable. Bra shoulder pads can help prevent bra straps from digging into the shoulder.

    If a woman chooses to wear a breast prosthesis that does not adhere directly to the skin, she will need to wear a special post-mastectomy bra with pockets for the breast form (special swimsuits also hold breast forms). Some women find that special sleep or leisure bras with or without pockets for a prosthesis are comfortable to wear overnight.

    Who Should Consider a Prosthesis and/or Post-Mastectomy Bra?

    Any woman who has undergone breast cancer surgery that has removed a significant portion of tissue is a candidate for a breast prosthesis, which often needs to be worn with a post-mastectomy bra. Many women do not wish to have surgical breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery or decide to wait several months or years before having reconstructive surgery. For these women, breast prostheses and mastectomy bras are viable alternatives.

    When Can Women Begin Wearing Prostheses?

    Usually, a patient’s physician will recommend that she wear a camisole (sleeveless undergarment made of soft material) with a non-weighted breast prosthesis after breast cancer surgery until the surgical site is completely healed. This typically takes between four and eight weeks but may be longer or shorter depending on the individual situation. After the chest area has healed, a woman may be fitted for a weighted external breast prosthesis.