Some women choose to go through breast reconstruction following a mastectomy or lumpectomy, a surgical procedure to restore the look of your breasts and symmetry in your body.
Many women, however, opt-out of reconstruction and choose a less invasive option such as breast prostheses, also called breast forms. If you are curious about purchasing breast forms for yourself or a loved one, educating yourself on the essentials can help tremendously in ensuring you make the right purchase.
Why Should I Wear a Breast Form?
A breast form is a breast prosthesis designed to simulate the look, feel, and shape of the natural breasts. Many women choose to wear these following major breast cancer surgery because they help them to regain confidence in their body.
They allow you to achieve the same fit in your old clothes and anchor any empty space in your bra. In addition to aesthetics, breast forms provide a health benefit.
By restoring balance and symmetry in the body, the risk of chronic neck, back, and shoulder pain is minimized. This is important for avoiding long-term health issues and problems with posture.
What are Breast Forms Made Of?
The most common types of material used in the making of breast forms include a soft foam or fiberfill material and silicone gel. Fiberfill and foam breast forms are lightweight and ideal for immediately after surgery. They are comfortable to wear in the healing and recovery process. They are usually more affordable than silicone forms, but typically provide a less realistic look and feel.
A silicone breast prosthesis is made out of a silicone gel. These types are heavier and can feel more cumbersome, and it is usually recommended to wait six to ten weeks to wear any type of silicone breast form. Silicone looks and feels like a natural breast, and many women prefer these when dressing up or being intimate with a partner. They are typically more expensive, however, and not always ideal to wear in warmer temperatures.
What Styles of Breast Forms are Available?
Many styles of breast forms exist in order to accommodate each woman and her taste and preferences. Asymmetrical forms are designed to be worn on one or the other side whereas symmetrical forms are pear-shaped and can be worn on either side.
Full and partial forms are available as well to accommodate you and your specific surgery. Some women choose to purchase two different types of breast forms, one which they can wear comfortably while at home and relaxing, and another which feels more comfortable to wear while out and about on the town or at work.
When Can I Be Fitted for a Breast Prosthesis?
This will vary from woman to woman and be dependent upon your doctor’s recommendation. Adequate time must be allowed to ensure that the surgical site heals properly. If your surgery required stitches, you will want to wait until these have been removed as well.
If you have not yet undergone your breast cancer surgery but know that you want to wear a breast prosthesis afterward, you can speak with a certified mastectomy fitter beforehand. They may want to take measurements before and after.
What Can I Expect During the Fitting Process?
Working with a board-certified mastectomy fitter is one of the best ways to ensure that you find the breast forms that will best work for you and your lifestyle. Certified fitters are trained professionals in post-mastectomy fitting and they can be an ally in your health and recovery.
During the fitting process, you will likely discuss your surgery and the look you are trying to achieve with your breast forms. Your fitter will analyze and assess your surgical sites and the sensitivity levels of your skin in the chest area. They will then take all the proper measurements and make recommendations for the best options for you.
Will My Insurance Cover the Costs?
Prior to making any purchases, check with your insurance provider. Often, they will cover the cost of various post-mastectomy expenses such as breast forms. Sometimes they will have specific requirements, however, such as a prescription or recommendation from your medical professional.
If you are working with a certified fitter, they can also help you to navigate through the process of working with your insurance company.
Can I Swim While Wearing a Breast Form?
Regular breast forms may be unsuitable for swimming as they might not be waterproof or may be susceptible to damage from the chlorinated water. There are, however, breast forms designed specifically for swimming. These are typically made out of a lightweight waterproof silicone.
In addition, mastectomy swimsuits are designed specifically for women who want to wear a swim breast prosthesis. They come with special pockets to hold the form securely in place. Swim forms and mastectomy swimsuits come in all styles and color patterns, providing a broad selection for all women.
Do I Need a Special Bra for My Breast Forms?
Mastectomy bras are designed specifically for women after breast cancer surgery. They come with sewn-in pockets that make it easy to wear your breast form securely and to remove it when necessary for cleaning.
Mastectomy bras are often designed with seamless fabric, wide bands, and adjustable straps to provide maximum comfort throughout healing and recovery. In addition, mastectomy bras often come with features such as front clasps and no underwires. Mastectomy bras are a great investment for women who choose to wear a breast prosthesis.
How Do I Care for My Breast Forms?
When you purchase your breast forms, they will come with a set of care instructions from the manufacturer. There are special breast form soaps available designed specifically for the gentle care and cleaning of them. Almost all breast forms should only be hand washed to prevent any damage to them.
Regular detergents and soaps should be avoided to prevent skin irritation and degradation of prosthesis material. Once your breast forms are clean, you will only want to dry them gently with a soft towel. Following these guidelines and the instructions provided to you will ensure the longevity of your breast forms.
Are Breast Forms Right for Me?
Further considerations to make when shopping for breast prostheses are lifestyle factors and preferences. A great way to become informed about the entire process is through support groups and talking with other women who have undergone a mastectomy or other breast cancer surgery. Support groups can offer connections with others during feelings of loneliness or isolation, as well as tips from other women who have been through the same thing.
Custom Breast Forms
If you have deliberated over whether to wear a breast form, or are just having trouble finding the best one for you, custom made breast forms made by American Breast Care may be an option for you. The fitting process for a custom made breast form is similar to that of regular forms, and you will work with a certified fitter for this as well.
On the day of your fitting appointment, the fitter will address any questions or concerns you might have. They will then not only take measurements but photographs and 3D scans of your chest area as well. These will be sent to the ABC lab where the production of your custom form will begin. Once the form has been created, it will then be sent to your fitter, who will schedule a time to meet with you for your fitting.
While breast cancer and breast cancer surgery are detrimental and life changing experiences, at Mastectomyshop.com we believe that each woman has the right to looking and feeling her best afterward. Our goal is to help you achieve the look you want throughout recovery and beyond. We look forward to working with you for all of your post-mastectomy needs.