Breast Cancer Prosthesis & Inserts: Part 2: The Proper Fitting  

Summary: When buying a new breast prosthesis form, getting the proper fit and style for your needs should be at the top of your list. You’ll need to take into things like weight, material, and intended wear into consideration and think about when you will wear your breast inserts the most. All of those things will determine what other items you will need along your journey. Here you can learn about the bras, camisoles, and forms that you will see and work with during your breast prosthesis fitting.

After you have determined which type of breast prosthesis or insert you want to try, you might want to consider having a proper fitting by a professional. These fittings usually take about an hour and gives you the chance for a private, personal fitting where your questions can be answered, and your concerns put to rest. Those professionals who fit women for breast prosthesis have a plethora of knowledge, tips, and tricks for new patients. Most fittings happen in a similar way, like this:

  • The fitter will check your bra size with a tape measure.
  • They will ask you about what type of bras you like and how active you are and will check if your own bras are suitable.
  • If you have had a double mastectomy, the fitter will ask you what breast size you were and what size you would like to be. You might like to keep your original size or go up or down a size. This is up to you!
  • The fitter will bring you a selection of pocketed bras to choose from.
  • When you have chosen your bra, the fitter will help you try on several breast forms in different shapes, sizes and weights until you find a good fit. Do not be discouraged if this part takes longer than anticipated. Take the time you need to find the bra and insert that will fit you and your needs the best!
  • The fitter often has a slip-on tshirt or a smock for you to try over the bra and prosthesis to check that the form is the right size and looks symmetrical under clothing. You can also put your own clothes on, but many women find that their special shirt is easier.
  • The fitter then shows you how to check that the breast form sits properly in the pocketed bra.
  • They will then discuss with you how to take care of it and maintain it for as long as possible.

When it comes time to choose your bra, you will want to select one that fits very well to ensure your breast prosthesis or insert is always comfortable. Some find that their ordinary bra, sports bra or camisole-style shirt will adequately support their new prosthesis. Although, pocketed bras are specifically designed for this purpose and use. Pocketed bras offer the following perks for the wearer:

  • The Cups are firm and full, with elasticized edges.
  • The Straps are fully adjustable and comfortable. The wide design helps to distribute weight of the breasts and inserts evenly across the shoulders.
  • The specially designed pockets hold the breasts and inserts securely in place and help to protect it from damage.
  • The thick sides or bands of the bra do not cut into the skin at any point, which also helps to minimize slipping and the movement of the prosthesis. The insert should sit close to your chest wall between the cups and have a high-front center.

The Right Fit

A well-fitting breast insert is going to match your natural breast in shape and size as closely as possible. With the proper insert and right fitting bra, it is very unlikely that your insert would ever fall out or be noticeable to others. When you have your fitting, you can bring your usual bras with you, regardless of their “type.” Having the right fit with a bra and insert help many women to feel whole once more. Aim for the fit the looks natural and feels comfortable. Your professional fitter will also check to see that the insert or prosthesis you select does not obstruct the flow of lymph fluid in your body nor will it cause or promote lymphoedema in your arms.

Getting used to your new breast insert will take time and there is no set time for this adjustment. If your fit is not right and ends up needing adjustment, do not hesitate to contact your fitter and begin the process once more. Do not settle for an uncomfortable insert or something you are not fully behind. When wearing the prosthesis at first, you might feel nervous about wearing it out in public or think that it might not look right with your clothing. There are many concerns that are very common among most all breast cancer survivors. They are:

  • Weight.
  • Temperature.
  • Clothing.
  • Activity.

Weight is also an aspect when considering breast prosthesis. Silicone inserts are available in many different weights to accommodate the many varying needs of women today. A standard silicone breast form is made to be as close to the weight of the natural breast as possible. There are also lightweight breast forms available, which range from fifteen to forty-five percent lighter than the standard. When your breast form fits properly it will help to make you feel balanced and leveled. The way the form feels sitting in the palm of your hand will be different from how it feels upon and next to your chest. For some women, finding the right light-weight form for their sporting activities or to wear during swimming is a must.

Many women report that temperature greatly effects their breast insert experience. In humid weather, the forms can become overly warm and feel uncomfortable. This is especially true for larger breast and breast prosthesis sizes. Newer varieties and materials used to create the forms now use air ventilation and evaporation technology to help improve and even out the temperature, which will thusly increase your comfort.

If you are struggling with the temperature factor of wearing breast inserts, consider these tips:

  • Wear a correctly fitting bra to hold the prosthesis in the right place and help keep you cool.
  • Wear a lightweight form in warmer weather, which may keep you cooler.
  • Wear clothing made with cool, comfortable material, such as linen, silk or synthetic breathable fabrics.
  • Use a bra pocket or a breast form cover with a regular bra to help absorb perspiration. Check whether your fitter supplies covers.
  • Wear a bra made with fast-drying or sweat-wicking fabric, such as a sports bra. This may be more comfortable if you perspire a lot.
  • Wash your prosthesis well at the end of the day to stop any perspiration from degrading the form.

When you first begin to wear your breast prosthesis, it is common to worry and fear what your outfits will look like and what you can, or now cannot, wear with the form. Most often your “old” clothes will fit just fine and work well with your insert. Lower-cut tops may be more difficult to accommodate, as it could show your prosthesis within the bra.

Your fitter should have access to a multitude of options for you and your new breast form like sleepwear, lingerie, swimwear, activewear, sports bras, camisoles and camisettes and more. The growing options for mastectomy wear is constantly growing, with even more private and personal designers offering options on websites like Etsy. For those women who like to swim, it is a personal choice whether you swim with or without your breast prosthesis form. If you are a swimmer, you might want a special breast form that it waterproof and made long-lasting for heavy wear.

Here are some tips on how you can alter or adapt your own clothing to better work with your new insert.

  • Use scarves or jewelry for extra coverage.
  • Alter your clothing yourself or hire a dressmaker.
  • Try a strapless pocketed bra or use an attachable prosthesis.
  • Wear a camisole or singlet under a V-neck shirt or buy a pocketed camisole bra.
  • Reduce pressure from bra straps by using small shoulder cushions.
  • Add extra hooks on the back of the bra or buy bra extenders to make it more adjustable.
  • Sew a pocket into your bra, sleepwear or swimsuit. You can find various patterns and instructions online.

Caring for your Prosthesis

When you care for your breast prosthesis well it will have a lifespan of maximum possibility. Make sure to always follow the manufacturer’s care instructions and be gentle with your insert. Follow these tips to ensure you are taking the best care of your insert.

  • Handwash the prosthesis after every wear. Use warm water and a mild unscented soap or a cleanser supplied by the breast form manufacturer. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a towel.
  • Rinse the form well in clean water soon after swimming to remove any chlorine or saltwater.
  • Use a soft, fiber-filled form in a sauna or spa; a silicone prosthesis may heat up against your skin.
  • Avoid using perfumed deodorant, as this can damage the breast form. Natural crystal deodorant is a safer alternative.
  • Store your prosthesis in the box it came in, which will help keep its shape and protect it from sunlight and heat.
  • Take care when placing brooches onto your clothing.
  • Take care when handling pets so that their claws do not damage the prosthesis.
  • If your prosthesis is damaged or worn out, it can be thrown away in your general rubbish collection. Silicone cannot be recycled.
  • Check that your bra fits correctly every twelve months. You will probably need a new bra and breast prosthesis if your weight changes. Most prostheses last for two to four years with proper care.

Resources Used:

ACS
NIH

Reclaiming Intimacy

Breast Cancer Foundation

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