This expert article about post-surgery bra decisions, comes from the Bra Sisters – two breast cancer thrivers on a mission to transform post-mastectomy bra fitting. Sarah and Kate provide a specialist lingerie and post mastectomy fitting service for breast cancer thrivers, with qualified and knowledgeable fitters, and offer fashionable and contemporary lingerie and swimwear. Following their own breast cancer experiences, they’re passionate about providing a positive and personal bra fitting experience with a fashion forward selection of underwear.
Deciding the right thing for your body can be difficult and overwhelming, and given that this decision is often running simultaneously with the acceptance of your recent diagnosis, it’s fair to say, there will be a lot going on mentally, emotionally and physically. When all you want to do is hide under the duvet forever…you have to step up and consider major choices with lifelong and deeply emotive implications on your hands.
Thankfully, things are changing in the world of post breast cancer surgery options for the better. While many choose reconstructive surgery to restore their breast, there is a growing movement of women who, feeling radically altered by their cancer experience, are choosing to embrace their new body shape and remain flat. Others prefer to wear a prosthetic breast in their bra rather than have to undergo additional surgery. Some women opt for nipple tattoos to match the other breast as far as possible, while others are embarking on tattoos to conceal scars and boldly celebrate survival.
For us, who opted to remain partially flat (Sarah) and a double mastectomy with reconstructions (Kate), we are honestly just delighted that there is more awareness and understanding rather than a one solution fits all. In order to aid the process of recovery on a physical, emotional and psychological level, consideration of all the options available to you is key. The important thing to remember when talking to friends, family, random strangers in the supermarket who ask impertinent questions (sigh!), your doctors even…is that it is your choice.
We have learned so much about the world of post mastectomy bras, and how to find your confidence after breast surgery. Our post-surgery bra fitting experiences were not ideal… finding a professional, knowledgeable and impartial bra fitting service after breast cancer surgery was seemingly quite the challenge. Was wearing ugly, ill-fitting bras really the best it was going to get?
Thankfully, we’re here to tell you NO! Depending on the procedure you’ve had, you have options, and we’re here to support and guide you every step of the way.
From lymphedema swelling, nerve sensations, scar sensitivity, any skin changes from radiotherapy, numbness, these are all things you may experience post-operation. The sensitive post-surgery period is a time when you shouldn’t have to compromise on comfort and convenience… so let’s begin with our edit of tried and tested recommendations for the first stage of your recovery.
Lumpectomy is a form of “breast-conserving” or “breast preservation” surgery that is often described as a partial mastectomy because only part of the breast tissue is removed. Unlike a mastectomy, lumpectomy removes only the tumour and a small rim of normal tissue around it, leaving most of the breast skin and tissue in place.
Where it’s an option, many women choose to have a lumpectomy over a mastectomy to keep their breast and have it look (as much as possible) like it did before surgery. In addition to surgery, many women will receive radiation therapy shortly after a lumpectomy in order to eliminate any cancer cells that may be present in the remaining breast tissue. So not only are you having to contend with scars from the surgery that require consideration (your old bras may rub and cause discomfort), your breasts may be reacting and changing due to the treatment, and your skin may be greatly sensitive after radiation. It essentially means you want a supremely soft bra and anything that directly touches your skin needs to be gentle, which eliminates lace or any abrasive materials for now.
If you choose to use a Breast Form or Prosthesis then we would always recommend a pocketed bra to start with, while you get comfortable wearing it. Pocketed bras will hold your breast form securely in place away from your skin for maximum comfort, no irritation and your peace of mind. You don’t want to be fretting about it falling out mid downward dog/running for the bus/reaching for the wine etc.
At The Bra Sisters, we stock a range of Breast Forms and our favourite bras suitable after a lumpectomy are listed below; with the focus on discreet details to support, enhance and give you peace of mind, but all hidden under loveliness that doesn’t reveal the deeply functional aspects of your new ‘work-horse’ bra!
Going flat, or choosing aesthetic flat closure, is the decision to remove one or both breasts rather than having breast reconstruction. It is an option for anyone considering a mastectomy due to a breast cancer diagnosis and yet, there is a reluctance with many medical professionals to accept this choice as a valid, well thought through option, with concerns regarding the definition of femininity and future regrets often arising.
The good news is, we believe things are changing… charged along by a growing community of women called “The Flat Movement” – women who choose not to have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, but instead decide to “go flat.” There are websites, blogs, countless social media groups and beautiful imagery that raise awareness, represent this choice in an uplifting, hugely positive way, and offer support for women with breast cancer who are considering this option.
So what’s the point of wearing a bra if you’re flat? You may want to wear breast forms all or some of the time, particularly if you had a single mastectomy or it may simply be that you enjoyed wearing lovely, lacy lingerie before your diagnosis, and there’s no reason to stop that. Here’s some lovely options:
Reconstruction involves recreating the breast to match the remaining natural breast as closely as possible. For women who are facing or have had a double mastectomy, surgery can rebuild both breasts. For many women the sense of some return to balance or restored sense of wholeness is huge and offers many positive psychological benefits to one’s body image, confidence, self-esteem and innate sense of femininity.
General feeling is that after 6 weeks you can return to wearing an underwired bra but this will very much depend on your treatment, your scarring, your body and how it feels, or say, if you’ve had radiotherapy your skin could be more sensitive… there is no one rule for all. But, when it’s time to cast off the heavy duty post-mastectomy bras and progress to something more whimsical and lovely (and reminiscent of the former you’s going out-out bras!) here are some fantastic options.
Here are our top picks for bras suitable after reconstruction, with support, clever technology and a whole lot of oooooh la la!
When it’s time and you’re ready… the lingerie you have ‘from before’ may not all work. We would always recommend you have a fitting to be confident that whichever bra you choose works perfectly for you and we’re here to offer advice and support all the way. However, our best advice is this, you deserve to feel comfortable, secure and beautiful; taking self-care steps is an important part of the process of putting cancer behind you.
Find out more at www.brasisters.co.uk
Published 9 December 2021
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