Wearing breast prostheses is not medically necessary, but it may help prevent back and neck problems that can develop when a breast is removed.
The decision to use a breast prosthesis is a very personal one. It is based on your feelings, lifestyle and other factors. You may want to wear a prosthesis if you're not sure you want to have breast reconstruction or while you are waiting for reconstruction surgery. You may also decide to use a breast prosthesis because you don't want to have any more surgery.
Government and private insurance plans can help cover the cost of a prosthesis. But there may be additional costs for mastectomy bras and new prostheses over time.
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Breast prostheses are sold in stores that specialize in products for use after surgery for breast cancer. These include mastectomy boutiques and certain surgical supply stores, bra stores and department stores.
Prostheses and the nipples on the prostheses come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Prostheses are typically worn inside a mastectomy bra. This is a special type of bra with pockets sewn into the cups that will hold the prosthesis in place. These bras are also designed to support the weight of the breast prosthesis.
You can also adapt a regular bra by sewing a pocket into the cup.
Temporary prosthesis @(Model.HeadingTag)>
A temporary prosthesis may also be called a puff. It is a soft, light form that can be pinned inside of clothes or worn inside a loose-fitting bra. You can wear the temporary prosthesis any time after surgery. It is made of material that will not rub or hurt the area of surgery while it heals.
You can tuck a temporary prosthesis into the bra cup to provide a smoother shape. A bra extender may make the bra more comfortable until the swelling from surgery goes down.
Permanent prosthesis @(Model.HeadingTag)>
A permanent prosthesis is designed to look, weigh and move like a natural breast. It is made from silicone, foam or other materials. Some permanent prostheses attach directly to the skin on the chest with a special kind of glue. Others are worn in a regular bra or a mastectomy bra.
A permanent breast prosthesis may feel heavy when you first start to wear it. Wearing it for a few hours a day will help the body adjust. In time, the prosthesis will feel more natural.
You can be fitted for a permanent prosthesis 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. This time allows your surgical incision to heal and the swelling to go down. When properly fitted, a permanent prosthesis will support your balance and posture. It helps prevent back and neck problems that can develop when a breast is removed. It also prevents the bra from sliding up and helps clothing fit the way it did before you had surgery to remove breast cancer.
Certified fitters are trained and experienced in fitting breast prostheses. They can help find the best type of prosthesis for you and show you how to use it properly. They can also show you how to take care of your prosthesis so that it will keep its shape. Your healthcare team can give you a list of certified fitters and stores that have fitters available.
You may want to take your partner or a good friend with you to give you support and feedback when you try on a permanent prosthesis. Most stores will let you set up a private appointment, which might make the experience more comfortable for you.
When you go to the store, you may want to bring a form-fitting top or sweater so it will be easier to see how the prosthesis looks under clothing. The prosthesis should also stay in place when you move. You may want to ask if the prosthesis can be worn when swimming and if you need to wear a specially designed swimsuit with it.
The type of surgery you had, where the surgeon made the incision and the shape of your body will affect what feels and looks good to you. Different stores may carry different brands, so it may be helpful to try prostheses at more than one store. If you can’t find a prosthesis that works for you, you can have a custom one made.
The cost of a permanent prosthesis may be covered by your provincial or territorial health insurance plan. Most personal or work health insurance plans will cover at least part of the cost.
Partial prosthesis @(Model.HeadingTag)>
If you have had breast-conserving surgery, you typically do not need a prosthesis. But in some cases, the surgeon needs to remove a lot of breast tissue and the breast may look uneven. You can wear a partial prosthesis (also called a shaper, shell or equalizer) over the breast to create a fuller, smoother appearance. A partial prosthesis is made of the same material as a full prosthesis.
Mastectomy bras @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Many breast prostheses manufacturers also make mastectomy bras. Stores that carry prostheses usually carry mastectomy bras as well. A trained fitter can suggest a bra that will fit and support you well. Mastectomy bras are available in a variety of fabrics and colours. Special bras for sleep or leisurewear are also available.
You may be able to use a bra you already own. You might just need to make a few adjustments to make it comfortable or sew in a pocket to hold the prosthesis.
The Canadian Cancer Society also offers free breast accessories to Canadians who can't afford them. These currently include puffs and mastectomy bras. Find out more about this free breast accessory service.
Kathryn Isaac, MD, FRCSC, MPH
Melinda Musgrave , MD, FRCPC, PhD
University Health Network. Know Where to Buy Bras and Breast Prostheses After Breast Cancer Surgery. Toronto, ON: 2022: https://www.uhn.ca/.
Alberta Health Services. MyHealth Alberta.ca: Prosthesis (after mastectomy). Government of Alberta; 2021: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/.
University Health Network. Your Guide to: Bras and Breast Prostheses After Breast Surgery. Toronto, ON: 2019: https://www.uhn.ca/.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. My Mastecomy Surgery: Breast Prostheses, Reconstruction and Healing. Toronto, ON: 2022: https://sunnybrook.ca/.
Cancer Research UK. False Breast Shape (Prosthesis) After Breast Cancer Surgery. 2020: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/.
American Cancer Society. Breast Reconstruction Surgery. 2022: https://www.cancer.org/.