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Breast Prostheses Overview

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Updated April 17, 2014

After a mastectomy or lumpectomy for the treatment of breast cancer, you can achieve a symmetrical appearance again by using a breast prosthesis. There are several types available, in various skin tones and sizes.

Regaining Your Symmetry: Breast Prostheses

After breast cancer surgery, you can take control of your appearance and boost your self-esteem. With the proper fit, nobody will know you're wearing a substitute bosom. A good breast prosthesis (also called a breast form) can help in several ways.
  • Balance and normalize your appearance
  • Protect your surgical scar
  • Prevent your bra from moving around
  • Balance weight on your shoulders

Best Advice On How To Choose and Buy a Prosthesis

Go for a professional fitting, and wear a snug-fitting blouse when you do. Breast prostheses aren't sized like bras, so you can't count on getting a form that fits by referencing your bra size. A professional prosthesis fitter can help you find a model that's the right shape and size, as well as one that is a proper weight and match for your lifestyle.

Colors, Shapes and Features

Breast forms are available in different sizes and shapes. Some are symmetrical, so they can be used on either side, and some are designed to be asymmetrical (used only on your right or left side). Some have nipples and some are completely smooth. There are weighted and lightweight forms, forms for active sports, even forms for swimming. All breast prostheses come in various skin tones, so you are sure to find a color that suits you.

Types of Breast Prostheses

• Silicone Breast Prostheses

A silicone breast prosthesis comes the closest to imitating breast tissue in weight and drape. A good prosthesis will also have some movement similar to your real breast. Although the weight of this kind of prosthesis can prevent shoulder muscle aches, it can also feel heavy or leave you feeling hot if you're outdoors a lot or participating in sports. Silicone prostheses can be custom-made so that you can be perfectly symmetrical, though they are the most expensive options.

• Non-Silicone Breast Prostheses

A non-silicone breast prosthesis may be made of foam rubber, fiberfill or cotton. These are lighter in weight than silicone prostheses, and can be worn as soon as you'd like after a mastectomy. If you are physically active, this kind of prosthesis may be for you. A non-silicone breast prosthesis doesn't have the weight and drape of a real breast, but it is cooler to wear and less expensive than silicone.

• Partial Breast Prosthesis

If you feel unbalanced after a quandrantectomy (segmental mastectomy) or lumpectomy, you can use a small, partial breast prosthesis or "equalizer" to help fill out your bra on your surgery side. These are made of silicone, foam rubber, or fiberfill. A partial breast prosthesis can be tucked into your regular bra, or into the pocket of a mastectomy bra (see below).

• Attachable (Contact) Breast Prosthesis

Don't want to be caught wearing a mastectomy bra? You might want to try an attachable prosthesis. Also called a contact prosthesis, these have adhesive strips or Velcro tabs, which allow you to attach your prosthesis directly onto your body. This kind of prosthesis will move with you, and it can be worn with a regular bra. Contact prostheses come in full-breast sizes and partial breast shapes.

• Adhesive Nipples

Not everybody has nipple reconstruction after a mastectomy, so there are adhesive nipples that you can use to complete your reconstructed breast, if you choose. Latex nipples, which are held in place with fluid adhesive, are easy to remove and reusable. Silicone nipples come in different colors and don't require any "glue" to keep them in position. Either kind of nipple can be custom-made to match your own.
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