It is important to remember that breast reconstruction is not for everyone. Every woman is different, and there is no wrong decision. For some women, reconstruction may not ever be an option for a variety of factors including, but not limited to, their diagnosis or health status. For example, if cancer is advanced, reconstruction may not be recommended; or if a woman is very thin she may not be a candidate for certain procedures.
When presented with the choice, some women elect not to undergo reconstruction for their own personal reasons such as:
- Focusing on getting back to work and family routines
- Wanting shorter recovery time from additional surgery and minimal disruption in their schedules
- Finding it easier to live an athletic lifestyle without breasts
- Caring more about other things than breast appearance
- Wanting to get the cancer out and move on
It is ultimately up to you to decide what is best for you and your future.
As an alternative to reconstruction, breast form, or prosthesis, can be used to mimic the appearance of a natural breast under clothes. For women who have only had one breast removed and choose not to have reconstruction it is very important that the weight of the removed breast is replaced. If it is not, secondary issues to the spine, shoulder, or arm can occur. A breast form, or prosthesis, is worn inside the bra or attached to the body with adhesive strips (attachable or contact prosthesis). It should be professionally fitted once your doctor determines that your mastectomy site has properly healed.
Breast prostheses come in a wide range of materials, shapes, sizes, and skin tones. The costs are generally covered by insurance.
Silicone prostheses most naturally imitate the weight and look of the breast. A silicone breast form is weighted so that your posture is restored and you feel balanced when you move and walk, it creates a natural appearance in clothing and allows your clothes to fit the way they did before your mastectomy.
Non-silicone breast forms (foam rubber, fiberfill, or cotton) are also available and are lighter, cooler, and less expensive. You may choose to wear the bra you have always worn or a special mastectomy bra with a pocket for the breast form. You may also have your own bras altered to fit the breast form. These types of prosthesis are temporary and often worn right after surgery during healing.
Soft bras are available for night time use if you prefer to wear your prosthesis under your nightgown.
A good time to have your professional fitting is about six weeks after surgery, once healing is complete. Many people like to bring a close friend or family member with them for support. The process can take about two hours and may be frustrating at first. Many find it helpful to bring a favorite fitted shirt or sweater to ensure that they like how it looks with the prosthesis they choose.
Always have your doctor write a prescription for your breast prosthesis and mastectomy bras. Figure out what costs your insurance company will pay and keep good records of your expenses.
For resources with information about breast prostheses, please visit: