Post-Mastectomy Bras and Camisoles

Why They Help and What to Look For

Many people with breast cancer will undergo a mastectomy (removal of one or both breasts). Recovering from breast cancer surgery is both an emotional and physical challenge. Post-operative pain and surgical drains can make getting dressed difficult.

In addition, the experience of losing part of your body can cause distress, anxiety, and fear. Although post-mastectomy bras and camisoles are important for physical healing, they can also improve self-image and confidence.

This article will review the types of post-mastectomy bras and camisoles available and what to consider before buying one. Be sure to talk to your surgeon about what kind of post-mastectomy garments are safe for you to wear.

helpful clothing options after breast surgery
 Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Mastectomy Bras and Recovery

Whether you choose to have breast reconstruction or use a prosthesis, a mastectomy bra offers comfort following surgery. Mastectomy bras have soft inner linings, which prevent pain or skin sensitivity on healing incisions or scars. Some post-mastectomy bras come equipped with pockets to accommodate surgical drains as well. When choosing a post-mastectomy garment, comfort and healing are top priorities.

Types of Bras

Various types of mastectomy bras are available. You and your surgeon can discuss which garment is best for the type of surgery you had. In general, however, look for bras with soft seams, no underwires, and breathable material.

Finding post-mastectomy camisoles with breast pockets is important if you're using a breast prosthesis. A prosthesis is a quick and easy way to fill the space where your breast once was. Using a lightweight prosthesis after a mastectomy decreases pressure on the incisions. Wait to wear a weighted prosthesis until after you've healed.

Front-Closing Soft Cup Bras

Since breast surgery sometimes affects your shoulder rotation, you may have trouble pulling a bra over your head or reaching the hooks on a bra that closes in the back.

Soft cup bras will stretch to fit over surgical dressings and provide light compression on incisions. The front-closure option allows for ease when taking the bra on and off. Due to swelling, you will likely need to keep the bra on the loosest hook at first but can tighten it when swelling improves.

Compression Bras and Vests

Your breast surgeon may recommend a compression bra or vest to wear after surgery. Compression garments help prevent swelling and fluid buildup as you heal. Although a pressure bra may seem uncomfortable, the added support makes mobility easier.

Compression Bra Fit

The right compression bra or vest will hold your skin in place and prevent stretching around your stitches. This reduces the chance of damaging the incisions and needing a surgical revision.

Post-Surgical Tops and Camisoles

If wearing a mastectomy bra isn't recommended by your surgeon or doesn't appeal to you yet, then a camisole may be a good choice. These soft, roomy tops are loose and should not interfere with drains or scar tissue. Also, as your incisions heal, upgrading to lacey and decorative camisoles is a great way to accessorize and show off your individual style.

Custom T-shirts, nightgowns, and pajama tops are also designed with bra cups and breast pockets.

What to Look For

Here are some features to consider when buying post-mastectomy bras and camisoles:

  • Wide bands: Wide bands across the shoulders and beneath the breasts ensure the bra will stay put and won't dig into your skin.
  • Adjustable straps and closures: These help achieve the closest and most comfortable fit.
  • No seams: Wearing a seamless bra means less irritation for sensitive and tender skin.
  • Comfortable fabric: Breathable fabrics and natural fibers will prevent sweating.
  • No underwire: This prevents rubbing on incisions and scar tissue.
  • Minimal detailing: At first, comfort is key, so stay away from itchy lace.
  • Find your style: Just because you had surgery doesn't mean you can't feel like yourself.

Underwire bras should be avoided, as they can dig into the skin. Check with your healthcare provider or surgeon before you start wearing underwire bras again.

Where to Find Bras and Camisoles

If possible, shop in person for post-mastectomy products as opposed to online. Finding a board-certified mastectomy fitter can also guarantee a perfect-fitting mastectomy bra.

Some medical centers have their own boutiques, where you can be properly fitted for a bra and prosthesis. There are also independent stores.

Many insurance plans cover post-mastectomy bras and prostheses if written as a prescription—ask your oncology nurse for information. In addition, some organizations provide free mastectomy products.

Summary

Breast cancer surgery can deeply affect how a woman feels about her body. From mourning the loss of breasts to learning how to dress a changing body, a mastectomy has a major impact.

Although comfort and healing are the first goals, you will eventually be ready to dress for style. Finding a professional mastectomy fitter can be a useful tool for feeling fashionable.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will insurance cover post-mastectomy bras?

    Many insurance companies will cover the cost of post-mastectomy bras and protheses if written as a prescription from your oncologist (cancer doctor).

  • How soon can I be fitted for a prothesis after a mastectomy?

    Most women can be fitted for a prosthesis once the incisions are healed and the swelling is gone. Check with your breast surgeon before being fitted for a prosthesis.

  • Do I need a prescription to buy a post-mastectomy bra?

    In most cases, you will need a prescription to have insurance cover the cost of a post-mastectomy bra. Your oncology nurse can help with this process.

  • How often should I replace my post-mastectomy bra?

    Whether you decide on reconstruction or prosthesis, you will need to replace your bra as your chest and breasts change. It can take one full year to recover from breast cancer surgery, and your chest/breast shape and size will evolve during that time. Some insurance companies will pay for more than one bra yearly. Check with your insurance company for more information.

Originally written by
Pam Stephan
Pam Stephan is a breast cancer survivor.
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