Using a Prosthesis

Updated 
August 31, 2015
Reviewed By: 

If you have a mastectomyinfo-icon, you can choose between a prosthesisinfo-icon, an artificial breast form worn under clothing, or reconstructive surgeryinfo-icon.

There are many reasons you might choose to wear a prosthesis. These breast forms:

  • create a natural look
  • help your body look and feel balanced without surgeryinfo-icon
  • help protect your chest and scars
  • keep your bra from riding up or shifting
  • don’t require any surgery

Choosing Between Prosthesis and Reconstructive Surgery

This is a very personal decision. You may have health reasons for choosing one option over the other, but you also should consider other things, such as

  • your willingness to have further surgeryinfo-icon
  • your lifestyle
  • how concerned you are about your appearance without clothing
  • how concerned you are about the risks of surgery and recovery
  • how active you are and whether a prosthesisinfo-icon might be cumbersome

Remember, you don’t have to live with your decision forever. You could wear a prosthesis after surgery to remove the cancer and have delayed reconstruction surgery weeks, months or even years later. You may also decide to use a prosthesis long after surgery. For example, if you choose reconstruction with implants but are not satisfied with the result, you may decide to have them removed and use a prosthesis instead.

Whatever you decide, ask your doctor to clearly explain your options and their impact for you. You don’t need to rush your decision.

 

Types of Breast Prostheses

Prostheses are available in many shapes, colors, sizes and materials. Consider visiting a shop that specializes in post-surgical mastectomyinfo-icon products to help you choose. There are two main types of breast prostheses:

  • Lightweight, nonsilicone prosthesisinfo-icon. If you decide breast reconstructioninfo-icon isn’t right for you, or you want to hold off for now, you may wear a temporary, lightweight prosthesis right after surgeryinfo-icon.
    • This form may contain polyester fiberfill, air, water or foam rubber. You should wear it for about 6 weeks, the average time the body needs to heal to support a weighted form.
  • Siliconeinfo-icon prosthesis. High-quality prostheses tend to be made from silicone, which looks more like natural tissueinfo-icon.
    • Companies make custom forms if you want a more exact match of your skin color, breast densityinfo-icon, size or shape.
    • Some standard forms have colored nipples and areolainfo-icon; others contain a nippleinfo-icon without color.
    • Some prostheses have an attachable feature so they stick to your chest wallinfo-icon.

Finding Retailers and Getting Fitted for a Prosthesis

You can buy a breast prosthesisinfo-icon at a pharmacy or medical supply store, but shops that focus on post-surgical mastectomyinfo-icon products usually have trained fitters who learn which products are safest and most comfortable. A qualified fitter will consider your bra size, posture and prosthesis.

Call or have someone call for a first consultation. Some stores require appointments. Also:

  • Call your health insurer to explain your coverage. Find out whether you must buy your prosthesis from certain shops or surgical suppliers.
  • Get a prescriptioninfo-icon with the proper language so your insurance will reimburse you.
  • Take a support person so you can discuss the experience afterward.

A fitting session can vary, but you can expect a fitter to go through these steps:

  • Examine your skin at the mastectomy site.
  • Measure your bra size.
  • Recommend a prosthesis based on your measurements, health requirements and emotional needs.
  • Allow you to try on the prosthesis or give you the prosthesis to take home and decide if it works for you.
  • Provide use and care instructions and the return policy.

If you do an Internet search, check sites with a good reputation before buying online. For example, Amoena offers advice and contains photos of women wearing Amoena breast forms and bras. It lists about 2,000 retailers in the U.S. and Canada and has a store locator to help you find one near you.