Almost 40% of women in the United States who have undergone a mastectomy decide not to proceed with reconstructive surgery. While the reasons for this decision will vary, many of these same women will decide to wear a breast prosthesis.
A breast prosthesis, also called a breast form, is a product that is inserted into a mastectomy or a regular bra, and which is designed to mimic the look and feel of the breast. A prosthesis helps to recreate symmetry of the trunk and helps to prevent the development of problems in the neck, back, and shoulders due to a misalignment of the body.
A permanent prosthesis will be prescribed for you after you incisions have completely healed. This healing process normally takes about four to eight weeks. When choosing your permanent prosthesis, there are several factors you want to consider, including size, shape, material and color.
Each breast form will come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The correct size for you will depend upon the amount of breast tissue which was removed as part of your surgery.
A full form prosthesis is used when the entire breast and breast tissue has been removed.
A partial form is used when only a portion of the breast and surrounding tissue has been removed.
A modified form is used if there was not much breast tissue removed during surgery, or if the remaining breast is small.
During surgery, your doctor will need to remove tissue from the breast and surrounding area. The location of this tissue removal will dictate the shape of the breast form that you will require.
Triangle shape breast forms will be used when your mastectomy was not accompanied by the removal of much surrounding breast tissue.
Teardrop or oval shaped breast forms will be used when the surgeon was required to remove not just breast tissue, but tissue under the arm and around the clavicle.
Asymmetrical shaped breast forms will be used if you underwent a radical mastectomy in which a substantial portion of surrounding tissue was removed. An asymmetrical breast form includes an underarm extension.
Each prosthesis comes in three main materials: silicone, foam and fiberfill. The material that you choose will affect the weight and feel of your prosthesis. For example, while silicone is a popular material for breast prostheses because it has the weight and feel of a natural breast, it is a heavier material, which some women find uncomfortable to wear. While foam and fiberfill breast forms are lighter than silicone, neither of these materials look, feel or move like a natural breast. Which material you choose will depend upon your level of comfort.
Prostheses are available in a variety of shades from nude to dark. You will choose the color that best matches your skin tone.
While it is possible to use your regular bra while wearing a breast form, a mastectomy bra has the advantage of not only including a pocket to house the prosthesis, but of also being specifically designed to hold the prosthesis in a natural position against your chest. Many garments, including mastectomy camisoles, can also be purchased with a fiberfill insert included.