Special bras for lumpectomy patients

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Bras After Breast Reconstruction

  • PRMA

    Nordstrom has an amazing program. They fitted me after my surgery. See the article below. Our Certified Prosthesis Fitters at Nordstrom are specially trained to fit women for all intimate apparel following a mastectomy, lumpectomy or other reconstructive breast surgery. The Breast Prosthesis Program provides the following services and items, which are available in our comfortable, private Lingerie departments (selection may vary by store): Enhancers and equalizers for lumpectomies and reconstructive breast surgery. Post-mastectomy camisoles. Free pocketing on our collection of bras. Nordstrom currently does not accept insurance for items purchased online. Please contact your insurance provider for coverage and filing information. In-store fit services are only available to customers purchasing prosthesis merchandise in store and with the required support of a Certified Prosthesis Fitter.

    Reply

  • I found professional bra fitters at Dillard’s were the best and so nice. Soma was good too but couldn’t find many bras without underwires. Depending on your size, Victorias Secret might be an option but, again, everything has underwires. And I was told to avoid wires. I took my measurement from Dillard’s and found the corresponding size in the Bali wireless softcup with the wide strap (you can get them at Kohls and they are on sale often). They lift and shape well, have few seams, and have a little give for those still sore areas. And comfortable enough to wear to bed if needed. I was told about these by a friend who had a DIEP about a year before I did. It was a great recommendation.

    Reply

  • How funny this subject came up on my FB page today, as I just got measured this past Saturday, June 20th. Until then, bra shopping had been an emotional challenge for me. Once I finished all my surgeries I was excited until I actually started shopping for bras. You see, I was that girl who always had a drawer full of pretty matching sets of every color. The problem I have is my left breast is I guess what you’d consider to be normal in shape, but my right reconstructed breast appears flat. Also, my reconstructed aeriola is very perky at all times. I found myself giving up not liking the way my breast looked in a bra, so I’d just go to Tj Maxx or Marshalls and get the best fit and stuff the right side with padding to fill the cup. This past weekend I went to Victoria Secrets at La Canterra with my daughter who was shopping for herself. Not interested in putting myself through disappointment I had no plans of shopping for myself, until I met an amazing, knowledgeable sales guy Estefan (a guy of all people) who just started getting me to talk about my issues. No pressure. Come to find out he understood because his grandmother had also been a survivor. I got measured by a friendly sales woman and discovered my correct bra size. Once he knew my size and my needs he set out to find me the perfect bras to accommodate my needs and he succeeded. It was the best bra shopping experience ever. I am that girl again with the pretty matching sets. WhooHoo! April Perez

    Reply

  • Hi, I’m having a terrible time trying to find bras that fit me after DEIP flap surgery on noth breasts.

    Reply

  • Hey Carolyn! I am so sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time trying to find the best bra for you. It is important to remember no two breast are alike and even after reconstruction, both breast may not be 100% symmetrical. If there is a dramatic difference you may want to consider consulting with your plastic surgeon to see if additional revisions may be necessary for better symmetry. Also, brands such as Amoena also have bras for women after breast reconstruction that may be more accommodating for you. Hope this info finds you well!

    Reply

  • Jan

    I too experienced amazing dignity, support and genuine love and concern from a “bra fitter” at Dillard’s at North Star Mall – San Antonio. I found out they have specific training for specific staff for just this purpose – mastectomies or reconstruction.
    They are kind, careful, caring and encouraging – and make you feel like a beautiful woman. A pleasure to be in a fitting with!
    I heard that Victoria’s Secret will be doing that soon as well – however, their bra’s were too sexy and minimal for what I needed after my “Mrs doubtfire” bra came off! I needed a little more “coverage” Mrs. Doubtfire was my security! LOL

    Reply

Which Bra Is Best for You After Breast Cancer Surgery?

When Dana Donofree learned she had infiltrative ductal carcinoma in 2010 at age 27, she had a bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction with implants. When Donofree, a fashion designer, tried to get dressed again, she found that her clothing, particularly her bras, no longer fit right.

“Once you get outside the traditional bra world, you are limited to sports bras, layering, and camisoles,” said Donofree. “Looking at me, I look like a 36 C but , I measured as a 38 F.” Traditional bras at that size “are meant to do some heavy lifting,” she says. “But I didn’t need a cup up to my collarbone.”

She asked her doctors how to find bras that fit her new shape, but she wasn’t satisfied with the answers.

“A lot of people would say, ‘Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear a bra,’” she recalled. “But what if you want to? Some of us have more modesty than others, and not every day is Saturday night.”

Doctors advised Donofree against underwire bras — which are what she used to wear — because they can be constrictive and may lie against mastectomy scars under the breast. Also, with implants, Donofree lacked breast tissue sensation; it would be difficult to tell immediately (through pain or discomfort) if a bra didn’t fit properly.

Women who’ve had radiation are also generally warned away from underwire bras because of the painful skin burns that can be left in the therapy’s wake. Too much friction isn’t a good idea.

Donofree eventually realized she needed to invent the bra she wanted, and, in 2014, she launched her own company, Ana Ono, which offers bras, lingerie, and loungewear specifically for women who have lived with breast cancer.

Every item in the line focuses on “what is needed to feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful,” says Donofree. “This includes wire-free designs, four-way stretch, hidden seams, gentle materials, pocketed and non-pocketed bras, and cut and construction to avoid pain points.”

Which Bra Depends on What Kind of Surgery You Had

Choosing a bra depends on what kind of surgery and therapy you had, said Kitt Allan, the founder and CEO of the intimates and swimwear company Kitt Allan. Allan was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2010 at age 45 when she was four months pregnant with her son. She had a unilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy. When her son was born, he had a full head of hair but she was bald, she says.

Like Donofree, Kitt felt compelled to create her line of clothing to meet her own needs. “There are many kinds of breast cancer surgeries: lumpectomy, mastectomy unilateral and bilateral,” she says. “Some of us have had reconstruction, some of us have not — whether we had one breast removed or both.”

Women who have had reconstruction may have implants or breasts made from fat and tissue from elsewhere in the body. Some have had many lymph nodes removed and some only the sentinel node. Some have had radiation that caused skin burns, some not. Some have had ports and some not. “All of these variables,” says Allan, “determine what kind of solution we need.”

Allan’s tips overall:

  • Choose soft fabrics that breathe and have good recovery.
  • Look for wire-free bras or underwire alternatives that don’t use metal wire.
  • Bras that have flat seams or are seamless are less prone to rub or scratch sensitive, scarred, or radiation-burned skin.
  • Elastic trim should be covered or lined with soft fabric.
  • There should be little or no boning on the sides.
  • Avoid molded cups, which generally don’t fit well after breast surgery.

Lumpectomy

In general: “Look for fabrics with recovery, which means that they stretch but go back to their regular shape quickly and easily,” says Allan. “Cotton, while cozy, does not have good recovery, so look for polyester or blends.”

The Make Merry Collection by Ana Ono

The Make Merry collection, designed with a practicing radiation oncologist, has pockets for breast prostheses or breast forms and features a plunge bra for those with C–DD cup sizes or a camisole for those with smaller sizing. With a doctor’s prescription, the bras may be covered by your insurance.

Partial or Unilateral Mastectomy

In a partial mastectomy, some parts of one breast may be removed, but there will still be breast tissue remaining. In a unilateral mastectomy, one breast is removed entirely. Some women choose to wear a prosthetic, a symmetry shaper, or a cutlet to fill in that requires a pocketed bra.

You can be fitted for a bra that accommodates a prosthetic at Nordstrom, which has a Breast Prosthesis Program in which certified fitters help women find bras following reconstructive surgeries. The retail store sells bras by Amoena, a company that produces mastectomy-friendly lingerie as well as breast forms. Donofree also likes knitted forms from Knitted Knockers, which are free knitted prostheses sent to women who have had breast surgery.

When trying on bras, “give them the sit and bend test in the dressing room to make sure that when you move your bra keeps your form close to your body instead of allowing it to flop forward in the pocket and become visible,” says Allan.

Here are some good options.

Iris Everyday by Kitt Allan First designed as a swim bra, Iris Everyday is made of mesh and is quick-drying (great for swimming) but also works for everyday. It’s pocketed and can accommodate a breast form, cutlet, or prosthetic. $45.

Pocketed Front Closure Bra by Ana Ono This bra works for patients undergoing radiation or who have had lumpectomy, or a unilatreral or bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction and it allows for use of breast forms. $54

Kelly Lace Racerback by Ana Ono This bra accommodates women who have undergone most surgeries (mastectomy without reconstruction or with reconstruction). It does not have pockets but can be used with self-adhesive breast forms or lightweight prosthetics like Knitted Knockers. $38.

Flat (No Reconstruction)

Some women opt to “go flat” — to have no reconstruction at all.

Jennifer by Ana Ono The Jennifer is the most popular item among what Donofree calls “the flat and fabulous.” The bra “shields the chest from being seen if you bend over and don’t want to expose scars,” she said. The bras “just look gorgeous.” $38.

Hanky Panky Allan recommends the Hanky Panky line for those who are flat by choice or necessity, but miss the feminine touch of lingerie. “There are great camisoles, bralettes, and lingerie-inspired bodysuits on the market that look great and stretch to fit your shape,” she said.

Full Reconstruction

Someone who has had her breasts reconstructed via implants can wear anything in the Ana Ono line, said Donofree. “If you have a regular bra, you’ll have a bubble where your nipple used to be, and it’s a reminder,” said Donofree. Instead, “we want our customer to feel comfortable, so we’ve removed the apex of the bra so there is no bubble or gapping” in the fabric.

The Rachel by Ana Ono The Rachel accommodates breasts that are rounder and less teardrop shaped, and accommodates breasts that may lack nipples. $54.

I Finally Found a Pretty Bra for My Rebuilt Boobs

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“You know, you don’t need to wear a bra at all,” my plastic surgeon said as I hooked up my bra at the end of my last appointment.

I raised my eyebrows at him and thought, “Okay, while you may be technically correct, I’m not going to the grocery store or a swim meet with my teenage son without a bra.”

“But what you’re wearing looks great,” he went on.

I smiled. It took me months to get here. Before I discovered AnaOno Intimates, a company that designs bras for individuals who have undergone breast surgery or reconstruction, I spent hours trying on bras that either didn’t fit or were unattractive. I kept settling for lingerie that I would have never bought before my double mastectomy, implant, and nipple reconstruction surgery, and I was tired of it.

Before my bout with breast cancer, I wore a size 38C. It was no big deal to shop for a bra. I could always find one that was pretty and comfortable. I had everyday T-shirt bras, flirty balconettes, and special occasion bras. I loved my lingerie drawer. But after my surgery, nothing fit, and bra shopping unexpectedly became more complicated and frustrating.

My surgeon had asked me to find a wireless bra to protect my healing boobs. At a local lingerie store, a salesperson measured me, and I learned that I was now a not-so-common size, somewhere between a 40 and 42B. What that meant was my options were limited to bras that could only be described as “matronly” or “functional.” About a month later, I headed to a department store known for its post-surgery fitting program to see if I could jazz things up a bit. I found some pretty bralettes, but they were too small. The salesperson suggested that I use expander hooks for them; I would have some attractive bras, even if they did not exactly fit. But as my post-surgical swelling dissipated, the functional bra was too big, and the bralettes with expanders were not a long-term solution. I went shopping again and was offered two soft bras that weren’t bad-looking, but they weren’t exactly going to light up the night, either.

After dancing with cancer for a year, I wanted my groove back. It should have been fun to restock the lingerie drawer! Instead, I was sad and frustrated because the message that was being telegraphed was: “Settle.” Settle for a bra that does not fit well. Settle for frumpy. Settle for less. Individuals who survive breast cancer lose enough; they should not need to settle for unappealing bras if they want to wear one.

It’s not like the traditional lingerie industry has never heard of breast cancer. Companies tout their partnerships with various breast cancer charities. One of my favorite pre-surgery designers makes an Awareness bra, complete with an embroidered awareness ribbon. Fabulous. Here’s the thing, though: I am already aware of breast cancer, as is everyone else who has had it. Then, it hit me. The traditional manufacturers aren’t marketing to those who have had breast surgery. That market is too small to change how traditional bras are designed or made. The general bra-buying public, who may want to wear a feel-good awareness bra, feeds a multi-billion dollar industry.

Enter AnaOno. Founded by Dana Donofree, a breast cancer survivor and fashion industry insider, AnaOno fills the void in the market that the traditional designers have not met. After reading about AnaOno on Facebook, I ordered the Rachel and Alejandra bras. When the package arrived, I opened the little boxes and muslin bags. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the frothy confections — a delicious rainbow of beautiful, sexy, lacy bras in blush pink, inky midnight blue, dusky mauve rose, black, and champagne. I wanted to cry. Then, I tried them on. This is what I had been searching for.

These bras fit my reconstructed body so well — not too big, not too small — since they are designed using dress rather than cup sizes. The bras are wireless because rebuilt boobs don’t need wires under them. That being said, they have enough gentle support to keep everything looking as it should. These bras use soft, comfortable fabric that did not that irritate my scars or sensitive skin. In addition, some of the bras have pockets for forms for individuals who choose not to have reconstruction.

More than the fit, colors, and designs, most importantly, these bras made me feel feminine and whole once more. I can smile when I open my lingerie drawer.

Breast cancer is hard. Buying a new bra for your post-cancer body shouldn’t be. Even though I don’t have to wear a bra at all, it’s nice to know that, finally, I can wear a pretty bra that fits if I want to.

Breast reconstruction to rebuild the breast after a lumpectomy or mastectomy procedure can create some unique bra problems. With the proper care, you can heal more comfortably and look and feel great after surgery.

After-Surgery Care
Immediately after your surgeries, your doctor should recommend what type of bra is best to wear. One common recommendation is to wear a surgery bra. A medical-grade compression bra holds the breast in place while healing and can help with proper drainage. You may also be told to wear a wirefree, or non-underwire, sports bra. Always follow your surgeon’s advice and bra recommendations during the healing process.
If you are having a delayed reconstruction or are having more than one breast reconstruction surgery, we recommend an adjustable breast form. This type of form has removable filling that can be customized to the size that you need. With the filling removed, the shell can be used to smooth the breast without adding size. By reducing the size of the breast form over time, you only have to purchase one prosthesis over the duration of your surgeries.

Fitting Help
After breast reconstruction, you should measure yourself to find your bra size. Because bra sizing can be a little more difficult after breast surgery, you may want to visit our store or speak to one of our expert bra fitters. For more information on bra sizing, visit our bra size calculator.

Bras for Women with Breast Reconstruction
The main fitting difference between breasts before and after reconstruction surgery is that many reconstructed breasts do not have nipples. Bra cups are designed with extra space to fit the nipple, so the bra cup can gap or dent at the center of the reconstructed breast.
To help prevent this problem, I recommend buying a bra that has a heavy lining. A lined or molded bra also helps make uneven breasts look more symmetrical.
Most women who have reconstruction surgery wear bras without an underwire. In addition to being comfortable, non-underwire bras are more forgiving when one breast is larger than the other. There are a wide variety of supportive wirefree bras on the market.
If you need more help finding a bra that suits you and your needs, we’re here to help! Ask our expert bra fitters or personalized advice and recommendations.

When you tell someone you’ve had a mastectomy, they’re immediately uncomfortable. The word mastectomy is an uncomfortable one—it’s mostly associated with cancer, which makes people think of death, so they squirm and blurt out something awkward or insincere. For me, the response was usually along the line of “But you’ll never have to wear a bra again!” It’s true. You technically don’t need to wear a bra, but, technically, who does?

Wearing a bra, or not, was the last thing on my mind when I underwent a preventive double mastectomy three years ago. But when I woke up from that first surgery, and the three reconstructive surgeries that followed, I was wearing a bra. It was pale pink, closing in front with a strip of hook and loop fasteners, and had two rings hanging from the sides to keep my surgical drains from dangling. I hated this bra. For eight weeks after my mastectomy I needed to wear it, stuffed with soft gauze to protect my sensitive skin.

Typically, women choose to wear bras to support their breasts. I no longer needed support because my reconstructed silicone-implant breasts are held up by the pocket my plastic surgeon built to keep them in place. But I liked to wear bras because they made me feel good. Up until my mastectomy, I spent a lot of money on beautiful, colorful, lace bras from Chantelle, Kiki de Montparnasse, and Eres. I wore bras in the way most women wear jewelry or shoes—as an accessory, something to complete my outfit.

Sadly, this bounty of underwire didn’t make it to my post-mastectomy life. Some plastic surgeons recommend that patients not wear underwire because after surgery you may have little to no feeling in your chest, so you wouldn’t feel it if a wily wire were piercing your skin. In my many years of bra wearing, a wire never ripped through fabric, let alone my skin. But breasts reconstructed with implants, while natural-looking, don’t move naturally or take the shape of a bra the same way the real thing can. When I tried on my favorite bras, the wires cut into the edges of my implants and the spot where my muscle is stitched into place. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel right.

The other frustrating thing about implants, which spits in the face of never wearing a bra again, is that they are heavy and cold. I’m completely aware of my implants at all times. They’re built-in silicone air conditioners that hurt my back more than my natural breasts ever did. For the first time, I not only wanted to wear bras, but I needed to—for support and warmth.

So, I embarked on what has now been a three-year journey of finding the most beautiful, comfortable, and fake-boob-friendly bras. The silver lining has been that bralettes abound in my post-mastectomy life. Around the same time I underwent my first surgery, designers began featuring wireless but beautiful bralettes amid the sea of bland, cotton training bras that were my future.

Through trial and error, I learned bras with thicker bands felt best because they did not ride up on my immobile chest. I also embrace cotton bras more because they keep my ice cube boobs warmer and are gentle on my now ultra-sensitive skin. I enlisted the help of Susanne Alvarado, the owner of Sugar Cookies in Manhattan, to experiment with different bras and search for a wired option that was wide enough to not cut my boobs in two. Alvarado’s years of experience proved more helpful than the young salesperson at Victoria’s Secret who didn’t know what to make of my situation. At Sugar Cookies, I was measured as a 34C, and though Alvarado did present me with some underwires to try, most of the bras that worked for me were wire-free bralettes that only come in small, medium, and large (I am usually a medium).

While Alvarado has been my in-person bra guru, I also searched the many online-only options now available. Most mastectomy patients directed me to AnaOno, which is a line of lingerie and loungewear specifically designed for women like me. I checked out their options but eventually passed. I wanted to wear a bra to feel like my old self. I didn’t want it to serve as a daily reminder of what I went through and a mastectomy-specific bra, no matter how much lace it had, was just as unsettling to me as my pink hospital bras. Instead, I ordered bras from Lively, ThirdLove, and True & Co, with Lively having the greatest number of options for my needs. I also ordered Coobie bras from the back of a People magazine, which were boring and generic but the best recommendation by far.

After three years of searching, I’m confident in these recommendations for the post-mastectomy, reconstructed boob niche.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

10 commonly asked questions about life after breast reconstruction surgery

Many questions and concerns may be running through your mind before undergoing breast reconstruction surgery. How long will the procedure last? What will my reconstructed breasts look like? Will I be in pain afterward? No matter how prepared you are for surgery, you will still have questions for your doctor in the days that follow, and you should make sure to ask them before ever leaving the hospital, experts say.

“ Your surgeon should go over everything with you beforehand. But patients are often stressed and taking a lot in at that time. Plus, many of the recommendations vary from patient to patient and from surgeon to surgeon, and they also largely depend on what type of procedure the patient had.” – Aaron Pelletier, MD – Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at our hospital in Chicago

To help patients prepare for life after breast reconstruction, Dr. Pelletier and Daniel Liu, MD, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at our hospital in Chicago, answer common questions about what to expect and what to do after surgery:

Q. Will I be able to wear a normal bra afterward?

A. Whether you wear a surgical bra after your procedure will likely depend on your surgeon’s preference and the type of surgery you had performed. Some patients will benefit from wearing a compression bra around the clock for the first four to six weeks, but many will be advised not to, Dr. Liu says. Underwire bras and bras that don’t provide much support generally aren’t recommended in the first six weeks after surgery.

Q. Can I shower after surgery? What about exercise?

A. Patients are typically encouraged to begin showering 48 hours after surgery, and to use warm, soapy water. You shouldn’t worry if water comes in contact with your incisions or drains. As for exercising, ask your surgeon when you may begin working out again, because advice may vary based on the type of surgery you had performed.

Q. Is massage recommended?

A. Massaging may help improve the appearance of scars or break up deeper scars in the soft tissues and chest wall that cause pain or issues with range of motion. But in other cases, such as when shaped implants and expanders are used, massaging is not recommended right after surgery. “Patients need to talk to their surgeon about this and follow his or her advice,” Dr. Pelletier says.

Q. Are there ways to help scars fade?

A. It may take a year or two for tissues to fully heal and for scars to fade, but, typically, scars never go away completely. Although many products, such as vitamin E oil and topical silicone gel sheets, are often touted as tools to help scars fade or disappear, none has been scientifically proven to do so.

Q. How long will drains remain in place?

A. Drains are small tubes placed in the incision that, over time, help to remove extra fluid during the healing process. Drains are commonly used in all types of reconstruction procedures, but many factors go into determining how many drains are used, and when they are removed. Most often, your surgeon will share these details with you before your procedure.

Q. How long does it take for swelling to go down and for the new breast to reach its final size and shape?

A. Each person is different, and much of the recovery process depends on the type of procedure performed. That said, it usually takes about three to six months for swelling to subside and for your breast to achieve a final shape, but it may take longer, particularly for patients who received radiation therapy for breast cancer treatment. Radiation permanently damages tissue at the microscopic level, which makes it harder for tissue to heal.

Also, keep in mind that final breast shape is often affected by gravity and tissue elasticity.

Q. How long do implants last?

A. Newer-generation gel implants will likely last the patient’s lifetime. “I usually tell my patients that in 10 to 15 years, they may need another operation to revise or exchange their implants,” Dr. Liu says. But no surgeon should provide a guarantee as to how long the implants may last. Patients may choose to have their implants exchanged later in life for a number of reasons, and most have nothing to do with problems with the implant itself.

But if a problem does arise, it is most often what’s called capsular contracture, which occurs when a scar forms around an implant and squeezes it, making the breast feel hard. This condition is often treated with surgery to remove the scar and possibly replace the implant.

Q. Will I have to have another procedure?

A. Breast reconstruction often involves more than one procedure, because it usually takes two or more surgeries to complete the reconstruction process while allowing time to heal in between. Sometimes, the process involves a revision procedure. Other times, a follow-up surgery may be necessary to achieve symmetry, while other procedures may be performed to reconstruct the areola or apply a nipple tattoo. “Everyone is different in terms of what she needs and wants, and this is something every patient should discuss with her surgeon,” Dr. Liu says.

Q. Will I still have to have mammograms and perform self-breast exams?

A. Experts say women who have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy don’t need routine mammograms. But if a physical exam finds something concerning, a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound or MRI may be performed. Every breast reconstruction patient should perform weekly self-breast exams and have annual exams performed by her surgeon, Dr. Liu says.

For women with silicone gel-filled implants, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that women receive a breast MRI three years after they receive their implants, and every two years after that, to look for signs of ruptures.

Q. When will the numbness go away and feeling return to my breast?

A. Some feeling may return after a number of years, but patients shouldn’t expect a reconstructed breast to recover full feeling. Some numbness is likely to persist even years later.

Breast reconstruction surgery often causes many changes—both physical and emotional. It may take time for you to accept your new breast as your own, especially if it looks nothing like your old breast. Talking with other women who have undergone the same experience may help. Talking with your doctor about what to expect may also offer a sense of control over the road ahead. And make sure to call your doctor if you notice troubling symptoms after your surgery.

“Although it may be a stressful time, listen to your doctor before leaving the hospital,” Dr. Pelletier says. “Before you’re discharged, you should understand how to take care of your surgical sites and how you should care for your breast based on the surgery you had.”

Bras after surgery for breast cancer

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5. What is a bra pocket?

A bra pocket is a fabric pocket sewn into the inside of a bra cup to keep a prosthesis in place.

If you choose to wear a breast prosthesis, a well-fitting bra with a full cup is often all that’s needed to hold your prosthesis in place. Many women find this creates a more natural appearance and is secure enough. However, some women prefer to have a bra with a pocket.

Mastectomy bras come with an optional bra pocket. If you prefer, you can adapt an ordinary bra by sewing in a piece of stretchy material loosely across the back of the bra cup to act as a pocket.

You can also buy pockets to sew in yourself. These are available to buy online from most mastectomy bra stockists. Use loose stitches when attaching the pocket as if a pocket is sewn in too tightly it can affect the bra’s shape. Another alternative is to sew in two strips of evenly spaced ribbon, from the top to the bottom of the cup.

For a small fee, some mail order companies or high-street shops may be able to sew a pocket in for you. Some NHS hospitals will put a pocket into two or three bras free of charge. Ask your breast care nurse if this is available at your hospital.

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6. Will I have to pay for my bras after breast surgery?

You will normally pay for your bras but mastectomy bras are exempt from VAT (value added tax) if they’re bought by someone who’s had breast surgery. The order forms on most websites and catalogues will have a box you can tick so that you don’t have to pay VAT. If you’re buying a mastectomy bra from a shop, check with a member of staff before paying for your bra. Many shops may ask you to sign a VAT exemption form stating that you have had breast surgery. You shouldn’t need to provide a doctor’s letter or other medical proof.

Macmillan Cancer Support provides grants that can be used to purchase surgical and mastectomy bras and swimwear.

If you’ve been advised to wear a surgical bra and you or your partner are claiming certain benefits you don’t have to pay for it. The qualifying benefits are outlined in the Department of Health leaflet HC11, which you can get from the hospital, your nearest Jobcentre Plus the NHS Business Service Authority website.

If you’re not receiving a qualifying benefit but are on a low income you may still be eligible for a free surgical bra or help towards the cost of one under the NHS Low Income Scheme. To find out if the NHS Low Income Scheme can help and how to apply, visit their website or call their helpline on 0300 330 1343.

” Find more hints and tips on moving forward after breast cancer in BECCA, our free app.

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At Second Act we recognize the emotional and physical trauma a person experiences when diagnosed with cancer.We also know the importance of not just surviving but thriving.That’s why, whether you have been recently diagnosed or have been thriving for many years, we provide the products to help you present your best self.

Recovery Products, Bras and Breast Forms

If you have been recently diagnosed we encourage you to contact us prior to your surgery to learn about the recovery products that will meet your immediate post surgery needs and make the early days of your recovery easier and more comfortable.

Whether you are facing a breast conserving lumpectomy or a mastectomy, with or without reconstruction, our range of fashionable bras will serve your needs. Some even have matching panties.

And our wide selection of prostheses is not just for women with mastectomies. We offer supple, light weight breast forms to replace your breast, balance shapers to accommodate symmetry issues due to a lumpectomy, and adjustable forms to assist during reconstruction. So, in addition to taking special care to make sure your bra is properly fitted, our certified mastectomy fitters will make sure your prosthesis is the right solution for you.

And post breast surgery recovery products, bras and prostheses are usually covered by Medicare and private insurance with a doctor’s prescription.

Compression Garments for Lymphedema

Whether you have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, if you have had lymph nodes removed you may be at risk for developing lymphedema. And, if you have had radiation treatment your risk is increased. Lymphedema can develop in the arm and/or the hand on the side on which you had your surgery, as well as in the breast and/or chest area. It can occur immediately after surgery or at any time later in life.

In addition to lymphatic massage, treatment for lymphedema includes the wearing of a lymphedema garment. Second Act can fit you for your compression sleeve, gauntlet, glove or bra. A properly fitting garment is critical to the success of your treatment and even, sometimes, can help you avoid the onset of lymphedema. If you have questions or concerns feel free to discuss them with our trained fitter.

Hair Replacement Options

Hair loss from chemotherapy can be a challenging part of your recovery. That’s why we encourage you to call us as soon as you learn chemotherapy will be a part of your recovery process. We will schedule an appointment to explain the range of wig choices and what that means to you.

We will help you try on and select the right solution from our extensive inventory of styles and colors.You can take your selection with you that day or special order your individual choice. Delivery is usually within a week.

Fashion and Accessories

But your options don’t stop there. We carry a range of hats, scarves, caps and other fun, colorful fashion choices to lend a sense of style to your look.

So whatever surgery you have undergone, whether recently or years ago, we have the products that provide a more comfortable secure feeling with greater flexibility and freedom of movement whether relaxing at home or participating in today’s active lifestyles.

If you are not sure what to get, Gift Certificates are a great option.

Contact Us

While you are making important medical decisions, it is our goal to help you make those personal decisions that will impact your ability to move forward with enthusiasm and self-confidence; in short, to thrive. We are a fully accredited DME provider and accept Medicare and many private insurance plans.

Hours are by appointment Monday – Saturday, to give you the individual attention you deserve. For information call 773.525.2228, fax us at 773.348.2228, visit www.secondactchicago.com, or e-mail [email protected]

Second Act values the importance of individually fitting our premium products to our clients. However, if you see an item you are interested in purchasing directly, please call or e-mail us and we are happy to discuss how we might be able to help you. Products shown are representative of the many styles and colors we carry. Exact products in stock at the time of your visit may vary. If there is an item that interests you please feel free to call or email us for availability.

Gift certificates available. Call or email us for details.

Bras After Lumpectomy

After a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, your bra needs can be radically different then before surgery. While buying a post-surgery bra may seem like a daunting prospect, it is still possible to look beautiful and feel comfortable in your bras.

The size and type of your lumpectomy helps determine the type of bras or prosthesis you should be wearing. Because breast surgeries vary from patient to patient, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice regarding appropriate bras, especially in the period immediately after surgery.
What types of bras are appropriate immediately after surgery?
Your doctor should recommend what type of bra to wear immediately post-surgery. If you do not need a medical-grade compression bra, your doctor may recommend wearing a wirefree bra, such as a low or medium-impact sports bra. A front closure bra may be easier to put on and off than a bra with a traditional back hook and clasp.
What types of bras can I wear after I heal?
Depending on where your surgery was performed, you may have sensitive areas on your breasts. Because every woman has a different comfort level, it is important to pay attention to what types of bras feel best for you.
If the sides or bottoms of your breasts are sensitive, you may prefer to continue wearing non-underwire bras. See our Wirefree Bras page for a large selection of bras without a wire.
If there is a small size difference between the size of your breasts, a stretch cup bra can comfortably fit both sides without any padding or fill.
How can I make my breasts look more even?
Feeling comfortable emotionally in your new bras is almost as important as being physically comfortable. If you are bothered by the size difference between your breasts, there are plenty of ways to create a more balanced silhouette.
The most natural-looking solution is a partial breast form or compensation form – a bra insert that is designed to be worn after breast surgery and utilize the same technology as forms for full mastectomies. Unlike full breast forms, a compensation form is designed to smooth and fill in the breast tissue rather than replace the whole breast.
A partial breast form can be worn with any mastectomy bra to keep the form securely in place. If you would like to wear your form in a non-mastectomy bra, look for styles that have full-coverage cups.
Just want to fill out one side when you’re wearing more revealing clothing? A bra with removable push-up pads can be used to subtly add volume to the smaller breast. Simply remove the pads from the larger side.
How can I find my size after a lumpectomy?
Being measured for the right size bra is crucial for breast maintenance and breast health. You should always size your bra to the larger breast.
If you are unsure of your size, here are directions for finding your bra size when one breast is larger than the other. This process is easier if you have a friend help ensure that the measuring tape is straight and taut.
1) Measure your chest directly under your breasts, making a straight line across your back. The measuring tape should be tight, but not cutting into you. This is your Band Size Measurement.
2) Measure the larger of your breasts. To do this, start with the tape measure on your chest wall between the breasts. Go over the fullest part of your breast and halfway around your back, stopping at the spine.
3) Multiply this measurement by two. This is your Cup Size Measurement.
4) Enter these measurements in our Bra Calculator Tool to see your bra size.
Please note that bra sizing is not a perfect science, so it may take a little trial and error to find the perfect size. If you need more help with bra or prosthesis sizing, contact our team of expert bra fitters for personal advice.

I was somewhat shocked when, just a few days after my 39th birthday, I had a miscarriage. 
 Summer is historically my favorite time of the year, but to spend a June mourning the loss of a child that my husband and I were excited for dampened my surfing plans. 
 I lay in bed one night, trying to make sense of it all. My hands wandered about my body as they do sometimes. That’s when I discovered a grape-sized knot in my left breast. 
 One doctor’s appointment led to an ultrasound, which led to a radiologist. She approached my bedside. “This looks very worrisome,” she said. “We should schedule a biopsy, and soon. 
 “How’s today?” I asked. I couldn’t think of anything more important.

What followed was months of prodding, touching, stabbing, photographing and examination. The first biopsy came back benign, but that didn’t explain the “uneven border” or the “increased vascularity in the area,” a type of vein growth which is sometimes a sign of cancer. Another biopsy with MRI followed, one of the most horrific and fearful things I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing. But again, the tumor was found to be benign. 
 “I would normally suggest we just monitor it, but since you’re planning to start a family, I say let’s get it out,” my surgeon said. “We won’t be able to properly monitor it if you are pregnant. So let’s just deal with it.”

Image: Jessica Delfino


 The day of surgery came fast. I woke up feeling strong but then broke down into tears over breakfast. I just hoped everything would go all right and be over quickly. As far as diagnoses were concerned, I had been lucky. I held onto that and prayed for the first time in recent memory. 
 Later that morning, I had a little more luck: I awoke from a successful surgery in the recovery room. 
 As I got home and settled back into my familiar surroundings, the anesthesia made my thoughts dance. I noticed the 1950s style beige halter bra I was put into after surgery. It had a strip of Velcro down the front middle — easily opened, but not for sex, sadly. The ice pack the hospital provided was awkwardly spilling out the front of the bra, making it hard to keep the bra shut. It pushed into my tender breast, causing discomfort. 
 My medical team was truly wonderful — compassionate, humane and skilled. I was given a folder full of information to read through for my surgery, but here are a few things they forgot to mention which could be helpful for others to know, plus some fixes I recommend.

1. They give you a breathing tube during surgery, and I woke with a hoarse voice.

FIX: Bring some cough drops or ginger ale, or ask someone to bring a cup of hot tea to soothe your throat afterwards.

2. The bra they give you after surgery is an ugly medical jobby that does the trick but lacks heart.

FIX: If you’re not handy yourself, enlist a seamster friend to add two strong Velcro strips or a row of eye hooks to the front of a cheerful, colorful sports bra. Just be sure to add a small amount of room to account for any swelling — you don’t want the ice packs pushing too hard into your surgery wounds. If your pal is particularly savvy, have them add lined “insert” pockets (like the kind you’d see on a bra where you can add or remove padding) to hold the ice packs. Before surgery, give the bra to the nurses so they can put it on you after your procedure. 
 Sports bras are recommended in lumpectomy literature, because holding everything “in place” is useful and comfortable for some people during their healing process. You know the bazoombas — always bouncing around with every hop or any time you bend over. After surgery, every shake and shimmy reverberated through my breast and sent pain rippling down my body. Though the ’50s bra was a sad sight, the way it cupped and hugged my chest tightly helped to keep things from moving, helped my stitches stay intact and helped me heal faster. 


3. They gave me an ice pack at the hospital, but it was not exactly “breast sized.”

FIX: Store a flat, squishy ice pack in the freezer ahead of surgery to help soothe your breast after. Look for a circle-shaped ice pack and order two to three in advance, or have your seamster friend make ice packs that are round and flat and can fit into your snazzy sports bra. Rubbermaid sells a “Blue Ice” product which comes in a sheet of small rectangles, which you can freeze and cut to fit. You might also suggest a product to your local drug store and ask them to order and consider carrying it for women recovering from lumpectomy and other breast operations.

4. After my lumpectomy, I found it difficult to sleep on the side that was healing.

FIX: I dreamed up an invention that would offer a simple solution. A sand-filled pouch could be ideal for placing under a breast to allow for comfortable resting on one’s side during recovery. Enlist that seamstress friend, or find a soft sandbag, the kind that come filled with spices and sand and make your dresser drawers smell pretty. 


5. I found it nearly impossible to locate a good lumpectomy recovery bra.

FIX: In my research, I learned that many people have requested that Victoria’s Secret create bras that cater to those with breast cancer. They have not done so, and sales associates aren’t trained to fit people who have undergone breast surgeries. Yet, the company sends me a free undies coupon every month. I say keep the free undies coupon and use that money to research and create a bra for ladies who’ve had breast surgery.

6. After a couple days of recovery, getting dressed and out into the world again took some thought and planning.

FIX: I bundled up in a coat though it was a warm day and draped scarves over myself, to save others the awkward discomfort of seeing an ice pack on my chest. “What happened?” they might ask. “Tit problems,” I would respond. 
 But here’s a free idea: Someone create a line of shirts, sweaters, blouses, scarves and jackets that will consider the public healing process and help a woman to look and feel human again — especially during summer months. Maybe shirts would include a pocket for ice inserts and fit snugly against the body and breast(s). 
 These ideas and surely others represent many products that don’t exist for women who are going through the process of a lumpectomy (removal of a benign or malignant breast tumor) or who have had a biopsy or MRI with biopsy, or other procedures that would leave breasts feeling sore. 
 There are thankfully quite a few products out there for women who have had mastectomies. But with breast cancer among women on the rise (we have been told to expect 50% more cases by 2030, according to the National Cancer Institute), these are products that we can’t wait for anymore. 
 If you are inspired by some of these ideas and would like to put them out into the world, please do. If you strike it rich, think of me and my breast that inspired it all, and send my cut to PayPal. 
 On a serious note, I’ll help anyone who wants to do this. I’ll offer brain power, contacts, resources and more, because I truly believe that every woman should at least be afforded comfort during the traumatizing experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer or undergoing breast procedures of any kind.

A form customized for you and a good mastectomy bra fitting means that no one will be able to tell you’re wearing one – it should look natural under your clothes. It’s often encouraged to bring some of your favorite outfits to the mastectomy bra fitting with you so that you can make sure you like the look of the bra under them.

It is not just about looks

While deciding to wear mastectomy bras with built-in forms helps you look the way you want, which is important, there are good health reasons to consider them as well. Wearing a form provides weight where you were used to having it. With that weight suddenly gone, you will find your muscles and posture changing. It is common for women to hold one shoulder higher than the other, and the change strains on the spine.

Women are usually eager to return to their normal lives after a mastectomy. For some, that means getting back into exercise. Physical activity not only increases overall health but in some cases can also help reduce the risk of breast cancer returning. However, many women do not feel comfortable going somewhere public like a gym without their breast forms. Without a proper fit and the right bra, the forms are too heavy to work out with.

You can now find sports bras made for women that have been through mastectomies. There are even things like swimsuits that include attached mastectomy bras with built-in forms so that you can exercise just like you did before surgery.

For more information

Having a mastectomy does not mean you no longer have options where bras are concerned. Contact Horton’s Orthotics & Prosthetics today at (501) 683-8889 to find the right bra for you. Our team will organize a free consultation to help you with this next part of your journey.

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