About Prostheses

After a mastectomy, women who choose not to have breast reconstruction can wear a prosthesis (breast form) to restore the visual and physical balance between the affected breast area and the non-affected breast area.

Women who have had partial surgeries may need a form to equalize the size of the breast that has been operated on with the size of her other breast.

Temporary Prostheses
For the first few weeks, you may choose to wear a temporary prosthesis. These forms are unweighted or slightly weighted. Some temporary forms are simply pillows made of soft batting. Others are formed out of foam. It may take six to eight weeks or longer for all of the swelling from your operation to go down. For this reason, you should not be fitted for a permanent prosthesis until your incision is completely healed and your doctor has given permission. Your doctor can write you a prescription for a prosthesis. You do not need a prescription to buy a prosthesis, however, sometimes a prescription is needed to get reimbursement from your insurance carrier.

Permanent Prostheses
A weighted form that is properly fitted is important to your health. When a breast is removed the body is no longer in balance and will compensate with a slight curving of the spine and "shoulder drop". Both conditions may lead to chronic lower back and neck pain. Your center of balance may also be compromised affecting activities that require balance.

The majority of weighted breast prostheses are made of silicone gel. They are similar to the forms used for breast implants but are "cured" and are not in a liquid state. The "Traditional" old style form is made with a baked silicone and has a slightly porous texture.

Today, there are hundreds of sizes and styles that fit all body and skin types. There are certified fitters who can assist you in finding the right prosthesis for you. If you go to a fitter, then it is only fair that you purchase your prosthesis from them. While we can advise you over the phone, there is an obvious advantage to being fitted in person.

To find a fitter in your area, try local medical supply stores, pharmacies, department stores(Nordstrom), specialty lingerie shops and wig shops. Your local American Cancer Society can often provide you with a list specific to your area. If you need assistance finding a fitter in your area, contact BoobBoutique.com and I can request this information from my vendors.

Mastectomy Bras
Today, there are extensive lines of brasseries with pockets to hold your prosthesis. You can, however, wear your favorite bra. Many women chose to have a pocket sewn into their own fashion bra. If you choose a mastectomy bra, you will find that most have the following features.

  • full coverage of breast area (as opposed to low cuts that may not contain the entire breast form)
  • wider band around the torso to prevent the bra from creeping up
  • less seams that may irritate around the breast and under the arm
  • some mastectomy bras have pockets under the arm that can be padded to provide for more radical surgeries
  • some pockets are made with wicking fabric to aleviate moisture build-up between prosthesis and chest.

When properly fitted, a bra will lay flat. Using extenders will generally result in some buckling along the back of the bra band. When fitting bras/prostheses, take notice of the "shelf" - the top orbs of the breasts - to make sure they match, and the height of the breasts (apex, or nipple area should be adjusted to center between the elbow and the should area of the arm).

Types of Prostheses

Today most breast forms are made of silicone gel with a thin polyurethane encasing. Older style forms were made out of a baked silicone with a permanent cloth covering. Some new forms have more than one type of silicone to achieve different levels of firmness. Listed below are the more common shapes.
  • Symmetrical forms can be worn on either side of the body.

    Triangle shape
    This form is the most general type and is the easiest to fit.

    Teardrop or Pear-shape
    The extension can be placed up or to the side depending on where the fill is needed.

    This form has two extensions, one for the upper chest and the other for under the arm.

  • Asymmetrical forms are designed to be worn on one side and come in right or left side shapes.

    Curved Teardrop
    Essentially, a teardrop with one portion having a slight extension for the upper chest wall.

    Extended Triangle
    One of the lower corners of the triangle is extended for fill under the arm.

  • Equalizers/Enhancers
    Thin shelled forms are designed to be worn over existing breast tissue and generally serve to augment the size. Some women choose to use these to enhance the size of normal breasts.

    A half form that is used to augment size.

  • Attachable
    Attachable breast forms temporarily attach with adhesive mounted Velcro strips or surgical cement. See NEARLY ME's reusuable Silicone Security Patches that attach any silicone breast form with an adhesive gel.

    Attachable nipples
    Nipples that are attached with adhesive.

Types of Surgeries

A Radical Mastectomy (also called the "Halsted radical" after the surgeon who developed the procedure) was the standard treatment for breast cancer for more than 70 years. This surgery removes the breast, the chest muscles, all of the underarm lymph nodes, and some additional fat and skin.

The Modified Radical Mastectomy removes the breast, the underarm lymph nodes, and the lining over the chest muscles. Sometimes the smaller of the two chest muscles is also removed. This procedure is also called a "total mastectomy with axillary (underarm) dissection" and is the most common treatment of early stage breast cancer today. Survival rates are the same as for the radical mastectomy when cancer is treated in its early stages.

The Total or Simple Mastectomy removes only the breast. Sometimes a few of the underarm lymph nodes closest to the breast are removed to see if the cancer has spread beyond the breast. It may be followed by radiation therapy.

A Partial or Segmental Mastectomy is a procedure where the tumor is removed along with a wedge of normal tissue surrounding it, including some skin and the lining of the chest muscle below the tumor. It is followed by radiation therapy. many surgeons also remove some or all of the lymph nodes to check for possible spread of cancer.

A Lumpectomy removes only the breast lump and may be followed by radiation therapy.

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