Breast prostheses have been around since 1885, when an American inventor patented a ‘Breast-Pad’, which was made of rubber and filled with air. Thankfully, the technology has moved on since then: modern prostheses are usually made from silicone, which have the shape, weight and feel of a natural breast. In some instances, they can be fitted to the body with the use of an adhesive backing – but most women prefer wearing them in specially-fitted bras.
A brief history of breast prostheses
The modern mastectomy bra was pioneered in the mid-eighties, and originally consisted of a specialist bra with a silicon ring and specialist shape to replicate the appearance of a breast, but it wasn’t until the mid-nineties that the current ideal – a bra with space for an attachable prosthesis – became popular.
Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling last year, mastectomy bras are officially labelled as ‘artificial body parts’, thanks to a German company which argued that they should be exempt from European import tax. But the real advantage to mastectomy bras is that they allow women to carry on wearing something they’ve been used to for all of their adult lives. All manner of designers have got in on the act, and there are specialist shops. They’re becoming part of our culture, too – as a recent storyline in Coronation Street demonstrated.
When can I wear a mastectomy bra?
Around six to eight weeks after breast surgery, the incisions that have been made will have healed, and you will be ready to be fitted for a weighted prosthesis. You will be advised of which fitters are operating in your area.
The fitter will begin by accessing the condition of the skin, to ensure there is no drainage or open wound in the incision area. Then, the fitter will determine your proper bra size by taking measurements at strategic points. It goes without saying that getting the fit right is crucial, not only to achieve a natural look as possible, but to ensure the optimum support of the prosthesis is achieved.
The next stage is the prosthesis recommendation. If you have had a single mastectomy, the fitter will evaluate the drape and shape of the existing breast and select a prosthesis that matches – be it a teardrop, triangle, heart or whatever shape it is. If you’ve had a double mastectomy, the fitter will recommend prostheses which will match and flatter your current dimensions.
The final stage involves you wearing a smock or drape and evaluating the recommended look for yourself, and either approving the new look or asking for corrections.
When do I need to change my new prosthesis?
If you’ve had a single mastectomy, experts recommend a yearly catch-up session with your fitter. There’s an obvious reason for that: as time goes on, your existing breast may change shape, and it makes sense to ensure your prosthesis continues to match up.
On average, the manufacturer’s warranty on breast prostheses lasts for two years – and as long as you treat them with care and avoid damaging them with accidental punctures or with exposure to perfumes or toiletries, your new mastectomy lingerie should boost your self-confidence for many days to come.