Breast forms after mastectomy


Amoena Silicone Breast Forms

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Post-Mastectomy Prosthesis

What is a prosthesis?

There are various types of post-mastectomy and lumpectomy prostheses, also called breast forms. Manufacturers make a wide selection of types, shapes, sizes, and colors.

The type of prosthesis required is determined by the amount of breast tissue that is removed. A prosthesis can be worn against the skin, inside the pocket of a mastectomy bra, or attached to the chest wall. Prosthetic devices are designed to look feminine while ensuring comfort.

What are the various types of prosthetic devices?

Type Description

External silicone breast prosthesis

An external silicone breast prosthesis is a weighted prosthesis, made of silicone, which is designed to simulate natural breast tissue. Because this type of breast prosthesis is weighted, it may help your posture, prevent shoulder drop, and problems with balance.

Non-silicone breast prosthesis

A non-silicone breast prosthesis is a light-weight breast form, made of foam or fiberfill, which may be worn following a mastectomy. Non-silicone breast prostheses may be worn during exercise, swimming, and hot weather.

Attachable breast

An attachable breast is a self-adhesive breast form that attaches securely to the chest wall with adhesive strips.

Post-surgical soft form in camisole

A post-surgical soft form in camisole is a light-weight, removable breast form that fits into a camisole garment (a soft, stretchy garment with lace elastic straps that can be pulled up over the hips if raising the arms is difficult). Post-surgical camisole is often worn immediately following a mastectomy, lumpectomy, radiation therapy, or during reconstruction breast surgery.

Partial breast prosthesis, also called a shaper or shell

Partial breast prosthesis, also called shaper or shell is a breast form made of foam, fiberfill, or silicone. This type of breast prosthesis is designed to be worn over your own breast tissue to enhance the overall size of the breast and to create a fuller appearance. A partial breast prosthesis can be worn with a regular bra or a post-mastectomy bra.

What is a post-mastectomy bra?

Post-mastectomy (or simply mastectomy) bras resemble regular bras but with one important difference – they have spandex stretch pockets on the inside which help hold and keep the breast prosthesis in place. Mastectomy bras can be purchased at specialty shops or mastectomy boutiques. A certified mastectomy fitter, who is trained and experienced, can assist you in selecting and fitting the appropriate prosthesis and mastectomy bra that meets your individual needs.

Some mastectomy shops, upon request, will sew in pockets to your regular bras, swimsuits, and nightgowns.

Frequently asked questions about prostheses:

Q: Where do I go to be fitted for a prosthesis and a post-mastectomy bra?

A: There are many mastectomy boutiques and specialty shops that carry all types of prostheses and post-mastectomy garments. Most specialty shops employ certified fitters who are specially-trained to fit women for breast prostheses. Many mastectomy shops are owned by women who have had breast cancer themselves.

At your first fitting appointment, remember to wear a garment that fits properly (possibly a knit top), so that you can see the shape of your breast when trying on your new prosthesis.

Your physician, oncology nurse, local American Cancer Society Reach for Recovery program, or other breast cancer organization can recommend specialty shops and boutiques in your area that carry prosthetic devices and garments.

Q: How soon can I be fitted for a breast prosthesis after a mastectomy?

A: After surgery, your surgeon will recommend the appropriate time for you to start wearing a prosthesis. This will depend upon your medical condition, the post-operative healing process, and the type of mastectomy that was performed.

A physician’s prescription for your breast prosthesis and mastectomy bras is necessary for insurance purposes.

Q: Will my insurance pay for my prosthesis and mastectomy bras?

A: There is some variance among insurance companies regarding coverage of prosthetic devices and mastectomy bras. Medicare, and some other insurance plans, will pay for one breast prosthesis per year. Most insurance companies will cover 2 to 4 mastectomy bras per year, provided that you submit a prescription from your physician.

During the month of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many mastectomy shops have sales on mastectomy bras and other items.

Always check with your insurance company to determine which post-mastectomy products are covered under your plan. Mastectomy bathing suits are generally not covered by insurance companies.

Q: Will people be able to tell that I am wearing a prosthesis?

A: No. With a proper fit, no one will be able to tell you are wearing a prosthesis.

Q: How long does a breast prosthesis last?

A: Always check first, as this will vary with the type of breast prosthesis and by the manufacturer. However, most breast prostheses have a two-year warranty.

Q: What happens if my body changes in size and my prosthesis no longer fits properly? Can I get a replacement, and is it covered by my insurance?

A: Most insurance companies will cover breast prosthesis replacements for this reason, provided there is a prescription from your doctor stating the reason for the replacement. Always check with your insurance company to determine what is covered under your plan.

The number of women choosing to have a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy has been steadily increasing. According to a 2013 study, reconstruction rates rose from 46% of women having mastectomies in 1998 to 63% in 2007. However, there are other options if you are concerned about having another surgery, don’t have time to recover from the one or more procedures involved, have other health issues, or just decide reconstruction is not for you.

For Andrea Zinn, who was diagnosed with stage IIIB breast cancer in her right breast at age 32, the answer was wearing a breast prosthesis or artificial breast form.

Breast forms are custom-designed for most women. They can be made from several different types of materials, such as silicone gel, foam, or fiberfill, to create something that has a similar weight and feel to a natural breast. Some breast forms adhere directly to the chest area, while others fit into special bra pockets that help hold the prosthesis in place. Breast forms can also be made with an artificial nipple or a special shape, depending on a woman’s preferences.

Q: Why did you decide to wear a breast form/prosthesis rather than have a reconstruction?

Andrea: After weighing the options with my breast surgeon and medical oncologist, I decided to only have a single mastectomy. Since I am BRCA1- and BRCA2-negative, a double mastectomy would not have improved my overall survival.

I met with a plastic surgeon for a consultation on reconstruction options. I’m not a great candidate for a breast implant, and I am not really interested in having the DIEP flap procedure that was recommended to me. It’s a big surgery, and I wasn’t willing to take on the risks.

My mother is an 11-year breast cancer survivor. She also had a single mastectomy and wears a prosthesis. I remember going to a fitting with her after her surgery and seeing how comfortable she was with her prosthetic. It hasn’t limited her in any way. It helped me decide not to pursue additional surgery.

Q: What was being fitted for your prosthesis like?

Andrea: The process reminded me of being fitted for a bra. I went to a local lingerie shop that was a covered provider on my insurance plan. I met with a professional fitter who took one look at me and brought out the perfect prosthetic on the first try! She was then able to recommend a good bra that would help support my large, healthy breast while fitting the prosthetic comfortably.

The staff was very caring and professional. The shop directly billed my insurance company so I just had to pay my copay. Later, I brought a non-mastectomy bra that I liked, and the seamstress sewed a pocket into the bra so I could wear it with my prosthetic.

Q: How did having a mastectomy and then wearing a prosthesis change the way you felt about your body?

Andrea: I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my breasts. I developed early, and my breasts have always been large and heavy. When it came time for my mastectomy, I wasn’t too upset to see my breast go!

Most days, I forget that my prosthetic isn’t real. The form fits so well against my chest wall that it feels like part of me. I’ve had to be cautious about not wearing a low neckline, but my surgeon did a tremendous job of giving me the illusion of cleavage with the type of incision she did. Still, I’m sad sometimes when I look at a gorgeous dress or blouse with a plunging neckline because I know I can’t wear something like that anymore.

I’ve never felt like less of a woman because I am missing a breast. It does make things like wearing pretty bras or lingerie more difficult, and sometimes choices are limited. However, there are growing options for mastectomy bras, lingerie, swimwear, and workout gear. So, I don’t feel like by choosing to wear a prosthetic I’ve missed out on wearing pretty bras or swimsuits.

Q: Do you have any tips for other women who might be trying to decide if a breast prosthesis is right for them?

Andrea: You can always meet with a professional fitter to talk about the fitting process and look at some samples of breast forms and mastectomy bras. There are a lot of options out there, and looking at some of the choices may help you decide if wearing a prosthetic is something you would like to do. It’s important to choose a professional fitter who has had specific training in how to fit breast prosthetics.

You can also:

  • Talk with other survivors who wear a prosthetic, or visit some online message boards if you don’t know anyone who wears a form.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of reconstructive surgery versus a prosthetic. If you can, get a few consults from different plastic surgeons to find out what kind of surgical options might be right for you.

Q: Is there anything else you think women with breast cancer should know?

Andrea: I think it is important for women to remember that breasts do not define you. Your body is strong and beautiful with breasts or without them!

Andrea Zinn was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2012. She is currently a volunteer state leader and a Face 2 Face Network coordinator for the Young Survival Coalition.

Suppliers: bras, prostheses, clothes and swimwear

Pocketing service available.
Availability: online shop, catalogue order or from their Warrington shop.
Fitting service at Warrington shop, by appointment.

Recycling bras and prostheses

Against Breast Cancer


Request a bra bank, or search for one in your area on their website. Bras can also be sent to:

Recycling Scheme, Against Breast Cancer, Leatham House, 13 Napier Court Barton Lane, Abingdon OX14 3YT



In store bra recycling scheme, with proceeds going to charity.

Hospices of Hope

Telephone: 01959 525 110

Unused breast prostheses and recycled breast prostheses in good condition can be sent to their Head office at:

11 High Street, Otford, Kent TN14 5PG

Nicola Jane

Telephone: 0345 265 7595
Email: [email protected]

A lingerie company that sends prostheses, bras and swimwear directly to Hospices of Hope in Romania and surrounding countries and THE Bricon Foundation Whole Women Project in Nigeria.

Send your unwanted bras to:

Nicola Jane Mail Order Office, Southern Gate, Terminus Road, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 8SE


Telephone: 0300 200 1292
Email: [email protected]

Oxfam shops will take bras that are then recycled either in the UK or sent abroad to Oxfam-run social enterprise schemes such as Frip Ethique in Senegal.

Smalls for All


A charity that distributes underwear, including new and hardly worn bras, to women in Africa.

Send items to:

108 Buchanan Crescent, Eliburn, Livingstone, West Lothian EH54 7EF

After Mastectomy: How to Choose Breast Forms That Work for You

Reconstruction techniques after a mastectomy have improved greatly in recent years, with much more natural results.

Even so, about 37 percent of women choose not to have reconstruction, according to a study published in February, 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Some women simply choose to live without a breast, or even the appearance of a breast. However, many others turn to breast forms — also known as prosthetic breasts or external breast prostheses.

These breast forms can make it easier to wear clothes more attractively and, some women say, feel more like your old self.

They’re not perfect — and they won’t feel exactly like a breast, of course.

Here’s what to know if you’re considering this option.

Why Choose Breast Forms Over Surgery?

Every woman has a personal reason, or many, for deciding to forego breast reconstruction, says Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, MD, MPH, a radiation oncologist in New York, Everyday Health columnist, and entrepreneur who has launched a company producing post-surgery bras and other products.

“Age is a huge factor,” she says. Sometimes older women will simply decide not to, that it’s not important to them. If a patient has a serious heart condition or other medical issues, she may decide she doesn’t want to undergo another surgery after the mastectomy, unwilling to face the risk every surgery carries, Dr. Thompson explains.

Thompson’s mother, Davi-Ellen Chabner, a teacher and writer from Boston, had a mastectomy in 1993. For her, the main focus was the mastectomy surgery. “I was very focused on getting rid of the breast cancer,” says Chabner, now 70.

After much thought, she says, ”what I came away with was, ‘I really didn’t want anything else.”’

She has been using breast forms ever since. She’s remained very active, finishing 10 marathons in addition to her professional accomplishments, but is the first to acknowledge that the prostheses aren’t perfect — and can be a bother. She’s sometimes removed the form before crossing that finish line because it was sliding around and distracting her.

RELATED: Redefining Beauty After Breast Cancer

Types of Breast Forms

Among the types of breast forms or prostheses for use after a mastectomy are:

  • Silicone forms, worn externally.
  • Nonsilicone forms, made of foam or fiberfill, designed to be worn right after a mastectomy or during workouts or hot weather.
  • Attachable breast forms, designed to be fastened to the chest wall by using adhesive strips.
  • Soft camisoles with breast forms for wearing right after a mastectomy, while healing is in progress. The form is placed into a pocket in the camisole.

Benefits of Breast Forms

After a mastectomy, you become asymmetrical, says Kathleen Gill Bazazi, a fitter of breast forms at Massachusetts General Hospital. The breast form can help you regain some symmetry, she says, and in the process help your posture — perhaps along with your self-image.

Many women tell her having the breast form there helps them feel more comfortable with what they are wearing.

She finds having the right form can help women stand up straighter, with less spinal curvature and perhaps less muscular pain from slouching.

Finding the Right Breast Form

The forms come in many different materials, styles, and sizes, with nipples or not. Experts suggest you go to a mastectomy boutique or specialty shop that has on staff certified fitters as well as the breast prostheses, along with post-mastectomy bras, swimsuits, and camisoles. Ask your surgeon for a good referral.

Wear a top that is form-fitting, such as knit, so you will be able to see exactly how the forms will look under clothing.

It’s crucial to have an individual fitting, Bazazi says. When trying on forms, she says, focus on fit, comfort, and style — and whether both sides match.

“Unless you have had extreme surgery, 90 percent or more of women can achieve symmetry ,” she says.

Right after the mastectomy, she recommends women get a soft foam form, with no weights, to allow the body to heal.

Four to six weeks or so later, she says, women can begin to look at the weighted silicone and other forms. ”The silicone breast prostheses are weighted to match the breast on the other side,” she says.

Be patient while shopping, say Bazazi and Thompson. It takes time to find the best prosthesis for you. “It’s like finding a favorite bra that you like,” Thompson says.

Don’t be pushed into buying one brand or a form you aren’t sure fits well, Thompson advises.

Costs, Insurance for Breast Forms

The prices vary greatly, with some fiberfill forms costing as little as $10, foam forms costing about $30 to $70 or more, and weighted silicone forms often costing around $175 or more.

You may also want a mastectomy bra or you may want pockets sewn into clothes so the form can be slipped in.

In general, Medicare and some insurance plans cover the cost of the bra and form, provided you have a prescription from your doctor. However, plans typically limit the coverage, paying only for a certain number of forms and bras within a specified time. Check before you shop.

Before buying, ask about the form’s life expectancy. Be sure you know how to wash it and how often.

A final tip, from one who knows: “If it doesn’t feel right, take it back,” says Chabner.

Breast cancer

Find out about temporary and permanent prostheses after surgery for breast cancer.

A breast prosthesis is an artificial breast shape that sits inside your bra to replace all or part of your breast.

Temporary prosthesis

If you have a mastectomy without breast reconstruction, your nurse will give you a lightweight fabric breast shape to put in your bra. This is often called a cumfie or softie.

You can wear it right after the operation if you want to, even if the area feels tender.

Some women are happy with their cumfie and continue wearing it instead of getting another type of permanent prosthesis.

Permanent prosthesis

About 6 weeks after mastectomy, once your scar has healed and you have finished any radiotherapy you may need, you’ll be ready for your permanent prosthesis. This is made from silicone.

You have the prosthesis fitted by the breast care nurse at the hospital where you had your surgery.

Many types of breast prostheses are available free on the NHS.

If you are a private patient, you might have to pay for this. Or you can ask for a referral to the NHS prosthesis fitting service.

The breast shapes come in different sizes, shapes and colours. Most women should be able to find something they are happy with on the NHS. But if not, there is more choice available if you buy your own from a manufacturer.

Special mastectomy bras are available. They have pockets to hold the prosthesis. But you don’t normally need a pocket. If your bra fits well and has full cups (rather than a low plunge), you should be fine. You can have pockets sewn inside your own bras free of charge on the NHS, if you want to. Ask your breast care nurse about this.

To look after your prosthesis, you should wash and dry it daily.


You can wear your usual prosthesis or make your own swimming prosthesis by cutting an ordinary sponge to fit.

If you use your usual prosthesis, rinse it in clean water afterwards to get rid of any chlorine or salt.

If you use a sponge, you can discreetly press your arm against it when you come out of the water, to squeeze the water out.

Many of the breast cancer organisations supply bras and swimwear for women who have had a mastectomy.

Partial prosthesis

Womb cancer is sometimes called uterine cancer by doctors as uterus is the medical name for the womb. Or they may call it endometrial cancer. The endometrium is the lining of the womb. Endometrial cancer is the most common type of womb cancer.

If you are looking for information about cancer of the neck of the womb (cervix), this is not the right section for you. We have a separate section about cervical cancer.

Getting a new prosthesis

You can get a new artificial breast shape every 2 years on the NHS. You might need a new prosthesis if yours gets worn or damaged. You might also need to replace it if you gain or lose weight.

Breast prosthesis

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4. Will I have to pay for my breast prosthesis?

NHS patients do not have to pay for their prostheses. Not all prosthesis styles will be available on the NHS.

If you are a private patient, check to see if your private health scheme covers the cost of your prosthesis. If you have to pay for your prosthesis you won’t have to pay the VAT on it and the fitter will ask you to sign a VAT exemption form stating that you have had breast surgery. Alternatively you may be able to have a prosthesis from the NHS in the same way that NHS patients can apply for a replacement.

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5. What happens at a breast prosthesis fitting

What to take to your prosthesis fitting

It is important to take a well-fitting bra to your breast prosthesis fitting appointment so the fitter can see how the prosthesis will sit in your bra.

It’s useful to wear a plain, light-coloured top. This makes it easier to choose a prosthesis that gives you a good shape. You might prefer to wear a top that can be put on and taken off quickly and easily.

You can talk about the styles of clothing you might want to wear your prosthesis with and if you’re hoping to wear it for anything active. It might be useful to think about the clothing and swimwear you plan to wear your prosthesis wear before your appointment. You could also take a variety of tops with different necklines so you can see how it might work with different styles.

At the fitting

The fitter will explain what will happen during the fitting and check you have a well-fitting bra.

At your appointment you should have:

  • a selection of sizes and styles of prostheses
  • sufficient privacy
  • a large mirror and good light so you can see for yourself what the prosthesis looks like in your bra and with clothing over it
  • enough time for you to make the right choice

Your prosthesis should feel comfortable, give you a good shape and be a reasonable match to your skin colour.

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6. Types of breast prosthesis

Prostheses come in many different styles, shapes, weights, skin tones and materials and with a range of accessories. Find out more about types of breast prostheses.

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7. How should I look after my breast prosthesis?

The prosthesis fitter will give you information on how to care for your particular type of prosthesis. If you follow the advice on looking after your prosthesis it should last several years. Generally, you should look after a silicone breast prosthesis as you would your own skin. Wash it daily in warm soapy water and dry it with a towel. If you have a stick-on prosthesis there may be specific products that you need to use to keep the prosthesis clean. Your prosthesis supplier will be able to tell you more about these.

When you aren’t using your prosthesis, store it in the shaped unit inside the box it came in.

Take care not to catch the prosthesis with sharp objects such as rings or brooches as these may damage it, causing the silicone to leak. If it does get damaged, you can usually seal the tear temporarily with a sticking plaster.

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8. How can I get my breast prosthesis replaced?

Your prosthesis will have a guarantee but the length of this can vary and most prostheses will last longer than the period of the guarantee. A replacement prosthesis is available on the NHS when it is worn out. You can also ask for a reassessment if your prosthesis is no longer a good fit, even if it’s still in good condition. This might happen if your weight or body shape changes or if your lifestyle changes (for example, if you become more active).

The process for getting a replacement prosthesis will depend on what happens in your local area and whether you have been discharged from the breast clinic or not. You can contact your breast clinic to arrange a prosthesis reassessment and fitting, or if you no longer attend follow-up appointments ask your GP (local doctor) for a referral to the breast clinic or prosthesis fitter.

New prosthesis styles are being developed all the time, so when you need a replacement it’s a good idea to have a reassessment rather than directly replacing the one you already have.

If your prosthesis is damaged due to a manufacturing fault, you should be reassessed and given a free new one if you’re an NHS patient. If it’s damaged because you have punctured it or not followed the care instructions, you may be charged for replacing it.

If you had your surgery privately, ask your insurance company if they cover the cost of future replacement prostheses. If they don’t, you can ask your GP to refer you to an NHS breast clinic or prosthesis fitter to be fitted with a free replacement.

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9. Can I donate my used breast prosthesis?

Some charities like Hospices of Hope send breast prostheses to Eastern Europe, where it is difficult or impossible to get a breast prosthesis. See our suppliers list for more information on recycling prostheses and bras.

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10. Air travel with your breast prosthesis?

Find out more about going through airport security and flying with a breast prosthesis.

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Get Mastectomy Breast Forms, Lightweight Breast Forms And Many More

Feel confident and wholesome at all times with our range of mastectomy breast forms. Discover a full range of breast forms that offer you a natural feel. These products are made of soft and fine quality fabric which protects the sensitive skin of the user and gives her a sense of security. Mastectomy breast forms are designed to provide a realistic look and feel soft and natural on the skin. They come in different sizes, styles, materials and may have an artificial nipple or a particular shape. We carry products from the best manufacturers that are available in breast forms – Amoena, ABC, Anita Care, Nearly Me and Classique.

How to Use Mastectomy Breast Forms?

Breast forms can be worn externally or are attached to the skin. External breast prostheses are worn inside mastectomy pocketed bras. The attachable breast forms are for those who do not want to wear pocketed bras and use a prosthetic that is a self-adhesive breast form and can be attached to the skin with adhesives. Camisole prosthesis is suitable for those who have just had a mastectomy and the scars have not yet healed. There is no bra involved and the breast forms are slipped inside a soft camisole which is gentle on the body. If wearing a top with a built-in shelf bra, you do not even need a mastectomy bra.

Which Mastectomy Breast Forms are the Best?

The best mastectomy breast forms are those which can be worn in all situations, resist shifting and imbalance, feel natural and be as close as possible in appearance and feel to the biological breast. Buying such a mastectomy breast form is not difficult with the wide range we have on offer from the best manufacturers of mastectomy breast forms.

Where to buy Mastectomy Prosthesis?

HPFY have wide ranging variety in breast prosthesis which has been hand-picked to ensure you get the best design and quality in breast forms. Our range will help you find the perfect fit for your body. Now you can look and feel beautiful again because we want you to forget you are even wearing breast forms.

How to select the right type of Breast Forms after Mastectomy?

After mastectomy, choosing the right type of a breast form becomes important. And an important criterion for this is the material.

  • Generally, mastectomy breast forms are made of silicone gel, latex, rubber and other gel substances. Silicone breast forms are popular and comfortable but they are expensive. An example of good silicone breast prosthesis is the Amoena Balance Delta 282B which is a two-layer partial breast form with a lightweight silicone on the back and an extra soft silicone covered with a thin film to cling gently to the operated breast.

  • A more cost-effective alternative is the non-silicone breast prosthesis such as those made of foam or fiberfill. These breast forms have the shape of a natural breast but not the weight, droop or feel. Foam/fiberfill breast forms can be worn post mastectomy or during workout and keep you cool in hot weather.

  • A fine example of a foam breast form is Trulife Tri-Leisure weighted type which is a soft and lightweight product best for temporary wear during leisure activities.

  • In our collection of mastectomy breast form type, options available are mastectomy silicone breast forms, non-silicone/lightweight forms, cooler forms, dark tone forms, swim/exercise forms, attachable forms, foam/fiberfill forms and leisure forms.

What to Consider when buying Mastectomy Breast Form?

Several other factors are involved when considering which mastectomy breast form to buy. These include:

Mastectomy Breast Form Design

There are two designs available – symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical breast forms are ideal for those with uneven breasts who need a more symmetrical shape. Asymmetrical breast form is available for both left and right fitting. The Nearly Me 420 breast form is made of soft, polyurethane foam and fits both the right and left side while Essential 2A 353 breast form from Amoena is an asymmetrical 100% silicone breast form.

Mastectomy Breast Form Fit

Mastectomy breast forms are available in three fits – average fit, full fit and shallow fit. Average fit breast forms are for those with an average profile and looking for minimum coverage and lower necklines. Full fit mastectomy breast forms are bought by those who need full cup fitting. The Anita Care silicone prosthesis is a full breast form with full weight compensation after mastectomy. Shallow fit mastectomy breast forms are for those with semi-full profile and provide high transition to the upper chest wall where less volume is required.

Mastectomy Breast Form Shape

You can choose from three breast form shapes – triangular, heart shape, oval shape and teardrop. Triangular breast form is meant for all surgery and body types. It fits well in post-surgical camisoles and pocketed bras. The ABC 1022 is a good example of a triangle-shaped breast form designed to prevent irritating crossovers. Oval shape breast forms can be positioned anywhere on the breast and rotated and positioned as needed. Heart shape breast forms provide a natural outline to keep the wearer feeling comfortable and confident. Teardrop breast forms give a versatile shape that tapers at the top extension and allows several positioning options.

What Size Mastectomy Breast Forms Should I Get?

The most important thing about wearing a mastectomy breast form is getting the size right. Comfort and wear time extension will depend on this factor. So before buying a breast form after mastectomy, check our sizing guide for different manufacturers.

Benefits of Mastectomy Breast Forms

Wearing mastectomy breast prosthesis has a positive effect on your physical well being. Its weight will help improve your posture and lessen strain on the back. Post-surgery scars will get covered if prosthesis is worn. Wearing a breast form also lessen chances of muscle and bone problems after the surgery.

Other Useful Links

  • Prosthetics: An Alternative to Reconstruction
  • Post Mastectomy Prosthesis

You may have had or are about to have a mastectomy, either because you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or are at very high risk of developing it in the future. If so, your doctor may have told you about options to rebuild your breast or breasts — a surgery called breast reconstruction. Typically, breast reconstruction takes place during or soon after mastectomy, and in some cases, lumpectomy. Breast reconstruction also can be done many months or even years after mastectomy or lumpectomy. During reconstruction, a plastic surgeon creates a breast shape using an artificial implant (implant reconstruction), a flap of tissue from another place on your body (autologous reconstruction), or both.

Whatever your age, relationship status, sexual activity, or orientation, you can’t predict how you will react to losing a breast. It’s normal to feel anxious, uncertain, sad, and mournful about giving up a part of your body that was one of the hallmarks of becoming a woman: a significant part of your sexuality, what made you look good in clothes, how you might have fed your babies. No one can ever take that away from you. Moving forward, you now have the opportunity to determine what you want to have happen next. But first you must do some careful thinking and delving into your feelings in order to figure out what is best for you. In this section, we’ll talk you through each of the reconstruction options, what’s involved, and any risks, as well as alternatives to reconstruction.

Asking yourself some questions can help you start to think about what type of reconstruction you want — if you want reconstruction at all:

  • How important is rebuilding your breast to you?
  • Can you live with a breast form that you take off and put on?
  • Will breast reconstruction help you to feel whole again?
  • Are you OK with having more surgery for breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy?

It’s also important to know that while breast reconstruction rebuilds the shape of the breast, it doesn’t restore sensation to the breast or the nipple. Over time, the skin over the reconstructed breast can become more sensitive to touch, but it won’t be exactly the same as it was before surgery.

This section of helps you understand your options AND sort through the medical and personal issues around breast reconstruction that you should consider.

In this section:

  • Is Breast Reconstruction Right for You?
  • Going Flat: Choosing No Reconstruction
  • Prosthetics: An Alternative to Reconstruction
  • When Is Breast Reconstruction Done?
  • Types of Breast Reconstruction
  • Finding a Qualified Plastic Surgeon
  • Questions to Ask Your Surgeon About Breast Reconstruction
  • Paying for Reconstruction Procedures
  • Satisfaction With Breast Reconstruction Results
  • Corrective Breast Reconstruction
  • Screening After Breast Reconstruction
  • Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction Video Series
  • Podcasts on Breast Reconstruction
  • Blog on Breast Reconstruction
  • Pictures of Breast Reconstruction

The medical experts for Breast Reconstruction are:

  • Frank J. DellaCroce, M.D., FACS, plastic surgeon, co-founder of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery and the St. Charles Surgical Hospital, New Orleans, LA
  • Scott K. Sullivan, M.D., FACS, plastic surgeon, co-founder of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery and the St. Charles Surgical Hospital, New Orleans, LA
  • Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., FACS, Breast Health Program medical director, Holy Redeemer Health System; Board of Advocates of the American Society of Breast Surgeons chairman
  • Steven J. Kronowitz, M.D., FACS, associate professor of plastic surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
  • Dahlia Sataloff, M.D., FACS, clinical professor of surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Comprehensive Breast Center director and Department of Surgery vice chairman, Pennsylvania Hospital Department of Surgery
  • Robert Allen, M.D., plastic surgeon, founder of The Center for Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction and the Group for the Advancement of Breast Reconstruction; clinical professor of plastic surgery at NYU Medical Center, Medical University of South Carolina, and LSU Health Sciences Center
  • Marisa Weiss, M.D., chief medical officer of; breast radiation oncologist, Lankenau Medical Center, part of Main Line Health, a five-hospital health system in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA

To read stories from some of our Discussion Board Community members about their reconstruction decisions, visit our Member Stories: Members Sharing Their Reconstruction Decisions pages.

Expert Quote

“My hope is to enhance the quality of care to our patients by making available to them the most innovative and progressive treatment options possible.”
— Scott K. Sullivan, M.D., FACS, Center For Restorative Breast Surgery, New Orleans, LA

“I continue to be humbled by the impact this work has, both on the women we take care of and those who are near and dear to them. The effects of breast reconstruction have the capacity to transcend the surgical techniques, providing the final link in the circle of treatment, a return to wholeness, and an overall sense of recovery.”
— Frank J. DellaCroce, M.D., FACS, Center For Restorative Breast Surgery, New Orleans, LA

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Last modified on June 20, 2019 at 12:57 PM

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Breast Reconstruction Using Implants

Using a breast implant is one option for reconstructing the shape of your breast after surgery to remove the cancer. Several types of implants can be used. This type of breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the cancer surgery. Or it can be started when you have your cancer surgery and then completed later. You should understand the benefits and risks of implants for breast reconstruction and discuss them with your doctor.

What types of implants are used for breast reconstruction?

Several different types of breast implants can be used to rebuild the breast. Implants are made of a flexible silicone outer shell, and can contain:

  • Saline: These implants are filled with sterile (germ-free) salt water. These types of implants have been used the longest.
  • Silicone gel: Gel implants tend to feel a bit more like natural breast tissue. Cohesive gel implants are a newer, thicker type of silicone implant. The thickest ones are sometimes called “gummy bear” implants. They are more accurately called form-stable implants, meaning that they keep their shape even if the shell is cut or broken. They are firmer than regular implants and might be less likely to rupture (break), although this still might happen.

There are different shapes and sizes of saline and silicone implants and they can have either smooth or textured (rough) surfaces. Any type of implant might need to be replaced at some point if it leaks or ruptures. In the past, there were concerns about possible health issues from ruptured silicone-filled implants, such as connective tissue disease, breast cancer, or reproductive problems. But so far, studies show that silicone implants do not increase the risk of these health problems. Some people with breast implants may have symptoms of joint pain, memory loss, or fatigue. It is not clear if these symptoms are related to the breast implants and more research is being done.

There does appear to be a link between breast implants with textured surfaces and a type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). This breast implant-associated lymphoma is discussed more below.

Other types of implants that have different shells and are filled with different materials are being studied, but are only available if you are participating in a clinical trial.

How are implant procedures done?

You might have a choice between having breast reconstruction at the same time as the surgery to treat the cancer (immediate reconstruction) or later (delayed reconstruction).

Immediate breast reconstruction (also called direct-to-implant reconstruction) is done, or at least started, at the same time as surgery to treat the cancer. The implant is put in the same time as the mastectomy is done. After the surgeon removes the breast tissue, a plastic surgeon puts in a breast implant. The implant can be put under the skin or muscle on your chest. An absorbable mesh is sometimes used to hold the implant in place, much like a hammock or sling.

The benefit of immediate reconstruction is that breast skin is often preserved, which can produce better-looking results. Women also do not have to go without a breast shape.

While the first step in reconstruction is often the major one, many steps are often needed later to get the final shape or appearance. If you’re planning to have immediate reconstruction, be sure to ask what will need to be done afterward and how long it will take.

Delayed breast reconstruction means that rebuilding is started later, after the cancer surgery is done. For this type of reconstruction, a short-term tissue expander is placed during the mastectomy to help prepare for reconstructive surgery later. The expander is a balloon-like sac that starts off flat and is slowly expanded to the desired size to allow the skin to stretch. Once the skin over the breast area has stretched enough, a second surgery is done to remove the expander and put in the permanent implant.

This method allows time for other cancer treatment options to be given. For example, the expander can be filled during chemotherapy, but the final placement of the implant is put off until radiation treatment is complete. If radiation is not part of the treatment plan, the surgeon can start filling the tissue expander after surgery.

Two types of expanders are available:

  • In one type, the surgeon injects a salt-water solution through a tiny valve under the skin at regular intervals (every 1, 2, or 3 weeks) to fill the expander over several months.
  • In the other type, the expander uses compressed carbon dioxide gas. The patient uses a remote control to release small amounts of the gas into the expander several times a day over 2 to 3 weeks.

You might choose to delay breast reconstruction if:

  • You don’t want to think about reconstruction while coping with the cancer treatment. If this is the case, you might choose to wait until after your breast cancer surgery to decide about reconstruction.
  • You have other health problems. Your surgeon might suggest you wait for one reason or another, especially if you smoke or have other health problems. It’s best to quit smoking at least 2 months before reconstructive surgery to allow for better healing.
  • You need radiation therapy. Many doctors recommend that women not have immediate reconstruction if they will need radiation treatments after surgery. Radiation can cause problems after surgery such as delayed healing and scarring, and can lower the chances of success. Flap reconstruction surgery (using other body tissues to create the new breast) is often delayed until after radiation.

Your surgical team will discuss your best reconstruction options, taking into account your medical history, body shape, cancer treatment and personal goals.

Tissue support for implants

Tissue support is sometimes needed for breast reconstruction, especially when implants are used. This tissue can provide added coverage over the implant, hold the implant in place, or position the muscle where it needs to be.

One way to do this is to use a woman’s own body tissues as part of a flap procedure. Tissue from another part of the body, such as the tummy or back, is used to create a kind of pocket to hold the implant in place or for added skin coverage over the implant. See Breast Reconstruction Using Your Own Tissues (Flap Procedures) for more information.

Some products use donated human skin or pig skin to support implants or transplanted tissues. These are known as acellular dermal matrix products because they have had the human or pig cells removed. This reduces any risk that they carry diseases or that the body will reject them. They are used to extend and support natural tissues and help them grow and heal.

The use of acellular matrix products in breast surgery first started in the early 2000s. Studies that look at outcomes are still being done, but they have been promising overall. This type of tissue is not used by every plastic surgeon, but it is becoming more widely available. Talk with your doctor about whether these materials will be used in your reconstruction and about their benefits and risks.

Risks of breast implants

Certain types of breast implants can be linked to a rare kind of cancer, known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). It is sometimes referred to as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). It is not a type of breast cancer. This lymphoma happens around 8 to 10 years after the implant was placed and more often if the implants have textured (rough) surfaces rather than smooth surfaces. If BIA-ALCL does show up after an implant, it can show as a collection of fluid near the implant, a lump, pain, swelling or asymmetry (uneven breasts). If you have any concerning symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor.

Early-stage disease is often treated with surgery to remove the implant and capsule. More advanced disease requires chemotherapy. Radiation may be used in certain cases. Prognosis (outcomes) is usually better for women with early-stage disease.

Things to think about before getting implants

Most women will do well with implants. But there are some important factors to keep in mind if you are thinking about having implants to reconstruct the breast and/or to make the other breast match the reconstructed one:

  • You may need more surgery to remove and/or replace your implant later. In fact, up to half of implants used for breast reconstruction have to be removed, modified, or replaced within 10 years.
  • You might have problems with breast implants. They can break (rupture) or cause infection or pain. Scar tissue may form around the implant (called capsular contracture), which can make the breast harden or change shape, so that it no longer looks or feels like it did just after surgery. Most of these problems can be fixed with surgery, but others might not.
  • Breast MRIs may be needed every few years to make sure silicone gel implants have not broken. Your health insurance might not cover this.
  • Routine mammograms to check your remaining breast for cancer could be harder if you have a breast implant there – you may need more x-rays of the breast, and the compression may be more uncomfortable.
  • An implant in the remaining breast could affect your ability to breastfeed, either by reducing the amount of milk or stopping your body from making milk.

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