Post-Breast Surgery Boutiques

Finding the right clothing for comfort and getting a proper fitting

Before you have a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, a bilateral mastectomy, or reconstruction surgery, make an appointment to visit a breast surgery boutique, which may also be called a mastectomy boutique. These shops stock prostheses, clothing, and other items that can help you feel comfortable and stylish, and they are often staffed by survivors who can relate to what you're going through.

Aside from meeting your practical needs, a mastectomy boutique shopping experience can be a welcoming one that helps you feel taken care of and understood when you need it most.

helpful clothing options after breast surgery
 Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

What They Sell

Some of the main items that these boutiques specialize in include post-surgical camisoles and bras, breast prostheses, and wigs. Most boutiques, however, expand beyond this and offer attractive clothing (that doesn’t look medical), as well as other support items.

Prostheses

You can choose from a variety of full-size light silicone prostheses in different styles, skin tones, and weights, including hollow ones that are perfect for warm weather and swimsuits.

Options include:

  • Full-size, hollow prostheses: These are light enough to be comfortable for women with sensitive skin, but are not ideal for swimwear or daily wear.
  • Partial forms: These can be used in mastectomy bras, swimsuits, and formal wear.
  • Shapers, shells, and push-up products: These can accommodate any area of the breast that needs fullness. Some of these prostheses can be inserted in place under a bra or even be attached to you with a specially formulated skin adhesive.

While you may need new bras every year following your surgery, if there are no changes to your body, you can plan on getting a new prosthesis every two years.

One prosthesis, depending on the style, material and other design features, can vary significantly in price. Quality products average around $400, but you may be able to find them for significantly less. Custom prosthetics may cost several thousand dollars.

Bras

Soft bras are available for women who prefer wearing a bra during the several weeks of radiation following a lumpectomy. While many women do go without one, others choose to wear a soft bra so their breasts don’t dangle and make them uncomfortable.

Mastectomy bras come in a variety of styles, colors, and designs. They no longer look medical. Once they're on, you can't tell by looking that they have pockets holding one or more prostheses securely in place.

Bras range in price based on style and start at about $35.

Camisoles 

Pocketed fashion camisoles come in a variety of colors, and some have lace accents. They can range in price but, usually, start at about $50.

Sleepwear

For a woman who's had a mastectomy, pocketed sleepwear can accommodate a soft cotton prosthesis or a lighter-weight silicone prosthesis to give you a balanced look. These also work following a bilateral mastectomy.

Pajamas or a nightgown can range in price from about $30 to over $100, depending on style and fabric.

Swimwear

Modern swimsuit styles are feminine looking and incorporate prostheses pockets that are undetectable. You have a lot of choices, too, including one and two-piece suits in popular styles. If you want to cover surgical scars, you can get a high-front suit designed specifically for that purpose.

One of the most popular styles is the tankini, which is a tank-style top and a separate bottom. While many women like this style because it makes it easy to use the restroom, those who use a breast prosthesis especially like it because it doesn't require you to take down (and re-situate) the pocketed top.

Suits vary quite a bit in price, depending on features, fabric, and style of the suit. Some can easily exceed $100.

Wigs

Wigs are a staple in most boutiques, and you can usually try them on in private. After you've selected and purchased a wig that you like, you can book an appointment with a stylist who can trim and shape it for you.

Boutiques usually carry wigs made of synthetic hair, which are easier to care for and less costly than human-hair wigs. Wigs range in price from under $100 to a few hundred dollars depending on the quality of the wig and the style. These include hand-tied wigs or those with a monofilament top that gives the appearance of a natural scalp and allows you to part the hair.

Headwear

Most boutiques carry a large number of dress and casual wear hats, as well as wraps, that offer complete head coverage for during and after chemotherapy.

The hat selection is often very varied, including today's popular styles, and items are made in fabrics that are specially selected for sensitive scalps. Sports hats are in large supply, as well as sleep caps.

Turbans and caps, in an assortment of colors, are popular for lounging at home. Scarfs for all lengths are stocked for the woman who prefers to style them to her outfits for a different look.

These head coverings give you alternatives to wearing a wig each day.

Other Products

In addition, a boutique often stocks products that you may need during treatment and beyond, such as:

  • Wig care products including shampoos, combs, brushes, and wig stands
  • An eyebrow kit to create brows until they grow back after you're done with chemotherapy
  • Scar cream to reduce the appearance of surgical and reconstruction scars
  • Comfort pillows
  • "Brobes" (bra/robe combos)
  • Cooling products

Boutiques, as opposed to surgical supply stores and lingerie stores with a small area of mastectomy products, have private fitting rooms where you may feel more comfortable being measured and trying on bras and prostheses.

You likely won't need an appointment if you're just browsing or picking up routine items, but you'll want one for bra buying, wig styling, and prosthesis fitting.

Prosthesis Fitters

Ask if a board-certified mastectomy fitter is on staff at all times before you make an appointment to get a prosthesis. Certification means the fitter has participated in an extensive education program, completed over 250 hours of supervised training, and passed a qualifying exam from a nationally recognized board, such as the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABCOP) or the Board for Orthotists/Prosthetists Certification (BOC).

A certified fitter's expertise ensures that you will be properly fitted for a prosthesis that meets your needs, is comfortable, and helps you feel confident about your personal appearance.  

Finding a Boutique

Some mastectomy boutiques are standalone shops, while others may be part of a hospital or cancer care center.

If you don’t already know of a boutique in your area, ask your surgeon’s office for a referral to a few that are a reasonable commute by car. You may also have success finding one by doing a simple internet search or asking women you meet in support groups or connect with in online groups for their recommendations.

In-Person vs. Online Purchasing

Buying a mastectomy bra and selecting one or more styles of prostheses is not like buying any old bra. You can't be sure of a good fit unless you are fitted, at least initially. Because of this, buying from a catalog or online—at least at first—can be a disappointing experience. 

A measured fit is necessary because the breast prosthesis is worn after a mastectomy to restore balance and symmetry with the remaining breast. In the case of a bilateral mastectomy, a set of two prostheses will be fitted.

After a mastectomy, you need to be fitted for a wire-free bra and a prosthesis that won’t ride up, is in balance with your remaining breast, and makes your breasts look the same size under clothing.

After a bilateral mastectomy, the fitting may be somewhat easier than when only one breast has been removed. It's about selecting and fitting a matching set of left and right prostheses that are a comfortable cup size and weight, won’t ride up, are flattering and natural looking, and are in keeping with your overall shape.

Your First Visit 

On your first visit to a boutique, you need to purchase a camisole for support and to secure the surgical drain(s) that will be used if you're having a mastectomy, lymph node dissection as part of a lumpectomy, or reconstruction surgery. The camisole is usually worn home from the hospital following surgery.

When your surgeon feels you are sufficiently healed, you can return to the same boutique to be fitted for a partial or a full lightweight silicone breast prosthesis to wear for breast symmetry if:

  • You find that following radiation after your lumpectomy, the treated breast is smaller than your other breast: Often this is not the issue until years later when your untreated breast naturally ages and the treated breast does not. All that is usually needed is a partial, very light silicone prosthesis, which is often referred to as a shaper, that can be worn in a pocketed bra or inside a regular bra that holds it securely in place so you look balanced in your clothing.
  • You aren't having reconstruction following a mastectomy or a bilateral mastectomy and choose to wear a prosthesis when wearing lingerie, swimsuits, sleepwear, formal wear, and everyday clothing for work and casual wear.
  • You're having a form of breast reconstruction using implants, which can take a few months to complete. A soft silicone prosthesis, often referred to as an enhancer, allows you to look the same in both breasts as reconstruction is in progress.

Insurance Coverage for Post-Mastectomy Products

Before you shop for post breast surgery clothing and other products, check with your insurance company as to what they cover initially and annually, plus what providers are part of their plan. Since coverage can vary, make sure you know what your deductible and copay will be.

Select a shop that specializes in post-breast surgery clothing and products and is an in-network provider under your plan.

If you are covered by Medicaid or Medicare, you need to find out what you are covered for beyond a prosthesis and bras, both initially and annually.

Breast prostheses are important not only visually, but medically as well, which is why they're covered by most insurance plans. If you don't replace the weight of the missing breast, it can change your posture and, moreover, cause back and neck pain.

If You Don't Have Insurance

Some boutiques maintain banks of cleaned and recycled breast prostheses. Typically, if you commit to buying a regular-priced bra, they'll fit you and give you a recycled prosthesis for free. It is absolutely worth an ask.

If you cannot afford a wig, you can explore resources that offer free and discounted wigs for women with breast cancer.

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