What Are Post-Mastectomy Bras?

Shahid Iquebal   by Shahid Iquebal, M.Pharm.    Last updated on October 3, 2019,

What are mastectomy bras?

Mastectomy bras are custom made or specially designed bras for women who have undergone a partial or full mastectomy, or a lumpectomy, and can be worn with breast prostheses. A mastectomy is the process of partial or full removal of one or both breasts by surgery, and is often a result of breast cancer. A breast prosthetics also know as breast form is an artificial breast generally used to give a breast a more natural shape after a breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy. Many of the people also commonly call these mastectomy bras as breast cancer bras in layman terms. 

Post mastectomy bras are made with specially designed discreet pockets or pouch like cavity inside the cups. Some mastectomy bras may have only one pocket in one cup while others may have pockets on both cups. However, most of the post mastectomy bras that are available in market are "bilateral" – meaning the breast prosthesis can be placed in either or both cups.

A mastectomy bra should not be confused as a traditional bra with added pockets but a quality mastectomy bra should offer enough coverage to secure your breast prosthetics, soft materials for sensitive skin and lightweight support. Most post mastectomy bras have no underwire. Women who do not have undergone breast surgery but feel uncomfortable in regular bras should consider mastectomy style bras for their addition comfort. These bras are also helpful for women with naturally uneven breasts and like to wear padding on one side.

Mastectomy bras are easily available in a variety of colours and fabrics. Generally a trained fitter can help you to recommend and choose a bra that will fit and support you well. Special post mastectomy bras for sleep or leisurewear are also available.

Mastectomy bras are not needed by every woman after breast cancer surgery. You may be able to use a pre owned bra after making a few adjustments to make it comfortable or sew in a pocket to hold the prosthesis.

Your doctor will most likely recommend wearing a compression bra or sports bra immediately after the surgery. You should not switch to regular mastectomy bras until they are recommended by your physician since the healing process is very important after undergoing a mastectomy, and comfort is an absolute necessity. You should choose your cup size based on the larger breast while buying a post mastectomy bra.

What to look for in post mastectomy bras?

Mastectomy bras work by having special area which include a pocket that holds a prosthetic breast and enhance the appearance of one or both breasts. These breast forms or prosthetics breasts work a lot better than simply stuffing a bra with tissue or another material as they are specifically designed for the task that is being with the right consistency and weight and often including a ‘nipple’ that you can choose to be same size and shape of yours.

The main thing you should look for while shopping for a mastectomy bra is comfort – it should make you feel more satisfying and convincing so that you can forget if you are wearing it at all. The next thing you should look for is the material of the mastectomy or post mastectomy bras, making sure that it is made up with soft and less irritable materials such as silk, rayon and cotton. These kinds of materials are good and will let your skin breath. These are less absorbent meaning they’ll feel lighter and will not cause you to sweat too much under your prosthetic. You should specially inspect the inside of the bras for any seams and stitches which can be itchy or scratch your skin.

You should also keep in mind and inspect the materials you are going to use to fill the bras. These breast forms or prosthetics come in many varieties just like real breasts. The materials of prosthetics to fill the bras vary from fibrefill forms to silicone forms, foam forms and gel forms with each having advantages and disadvantages. They vary in weight, feel and appearance, price, and while a silicone or gel form will likely give you the most weight and best feel and appearance, whereas the foam and fibrefill forms will provide you with a lighter and softer solution that will be less noticeable when you are wearing them.

You should carefully choose the weight of breast forms because it might cause problems with your back and shoulders as they are accustomed to carry a particular breast weight. However owning different breast form for various occasions can be the most suitable option.

After all these considerations you should also pick a bra that looks good. You may want several for different occasions just as you would normally. You should not try to hide your new breasts, but instead try to come to terms with it by still buying attractive and well designed bras. Just like traditional bras mastectomy bras come in all sizes, shapes, colours and materials from sexy pink silky ones to black lacy numbers. The final outcome of this option is to make you feel comfortable in carrying the prosthetics in the mastectomy bras and feel more convinced to yourself.

Why do you need mastectomy bras after breast cancer surgery?

Wearing post mastectomy bras can be regarded as alternative to some women who have had a mastectomy as part of their breast cancer treatment and decide not to have any type of breast reconstruction surgery.

Some women decide not to have any more surgery than they need to treat the cancer while some women may want to be able to get back to the work or normal activities as soon as possible. In some cases, women are just more comfortable with how they look and feel after the surgery to remove their cancer. Cost of breast reconstruction might also be an issue for many, especially for women who don’t have insurance coverage.

It might be possible that with many women the breast reconstruction is difficult or not possible owing to other health problems or medical conditions. For example, you might not be able to have reconstruction if you are too skinny, overweight, or have problems with blood circulation.

These women who do not want to have breast reconstruction after surgery have two main options:

  • Using a breast form or prosthesis under a bra usually called mastectomy bras or post mastectomy bras.
  • Going flat and not wearing a breast form. 

Shahid Iquebal

Shahid is a pharmacologist with masters in pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacology. In the past, he worked for Maxinov Healthcare Research Division and R.P Biotech. At DiseaseFix, he is a content guide and writer. He is also associated as a researcher with Integrated Resources Pvt Ltd. currently. Shahid’s areas of interests include cellular and molecular pharmacology, pre-clinical screening, and systemic and clinical Pharmacology.

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