Post-Mastectomy Maintance and Strategies

Published 12/11/12


Some tips for finding a bra that gives you the support you need after surgery.


PJ: Hi, I'm PJ Hamel and I'm a breast cancer survivor. As part of my treatment I had a mastectomy. Here are some pointers for finding a bra that gives you exactly the amount and type of support you need after a mastectomy. First, determine if you'll need a special bra. Not all women who have a mastectomy need a new bra afterwards. If you're having further surgery for breast reconstruction or implants, you'll probably be able to go back to your favorite bras, though perhaps in a different size. But if you're done with surgery and will be wearing a prosthesis or a breast form, you'll a special mastectomy bra, as well as a specially designed bathing suit to hold that breast form in place. Don't start shopping for a special bra until your chest in completely healed from the surgery, and all the swelling has disappeared. Be patient, this may take up to a couple of months. In the meantime, wear whatever undergarment feels most comfortable. Many women find a camisole or a camisole with soft cups is perfect. Others prefer a stretchy sports bra, one offering good overall support for your entire chest area. Just be sure you don't wear anything that's tight or binding right under your natural breast line, as it's bound to be uncomfortable and could delay your recovery. When you're ready to go bra shopping, find a good fitter. The hospital or cancer center where you had your surgery should be able to recommend someone local, a special fitter who specializes in mastectomy undergarments. You want to work with someone who understands the particular surgery you had, your needs going forward, and what type of bra might best fit those needs. Most important, you want someone who treats you with respect, understanding, and gentle care. This is an emotional time for you, and you want to connect with someone who's had experience dealing with women in your situation. Understanding what kind of bra you need, why, and what's available will help you make the best selection. Different types of surgery and different types of sizes of breasts, call for different types of breast forms and bras. For instance, some mastectomy bras may require two pockets, one in front, and one on the side. In addition, you'll find that mastectomy bras come in all different styles, including designs for business wear, casual wear, or low cut for evening wear. Again, don't forget a new swimsuit. Your fitter will be able to guide you to a reliable source for mastectomy swimwear. A good thing to do before you start shopping is to check out what your health insurance plan will cover. Mastectomy bras can be quite expensive. Also, because of what they are required to do, carry the full weight of your breast form, they can wear out fairly quickly. Most insurance plans, as well as Medicare will pay for a certain number of mastectomy bras on a certain time schedule. Understand your possible financial commitment before you start shopping and you won't have any unpleasant surprises to deal with when the bill's comes in. And that's how I see it as a former breast cancer survivor and former mastectomy patient. But I'd also recommend that you reach out to your doctor for more details, or go to Google and type in life after mastectomy, for more information. Thanks for watching.

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