For many reasons, women may choose to live without breast reconstruction. They may feel comfortable with their bodies after their breast cancer surgeries or may not wish to undergo another procedure. Women who opt against breast reconstruction surgeries can either live without a breast replacement or use a prosthesis.
Using a prosthesis will help offer that sense of balance and posture, as well as ease of wearing many types of clothing. A prosthesis is a man-made removable breast form that can be used under clothing to recreate the shape of a missing or altered breast. They are available in many sizes. The prosthesis fits securely and discreetly into a pocket inside the cup of the mastectomy bra. There are a large range of styles of mastectomy bras available just like regular (non-mastectomy) bras. Prostheses are also available for nipples that are missing or differently shaped after surgery. Some women choose to use this until they are able to seek out breast reconstruction surgery, others will use a prosthesis for life.
Be sure to spend some time thinking about and researching your options before your breast cancer surgery. Read more about making your breast reconstruction decision.
Should I get a prosthesis?
As an alternative to reconstruction, a prosthesis gives you a more natural shape and look under clothes without surgery. It also allows you to continually change the size to complement your natural breast changes.
You may want to consider cost while evaluating your surgical and non-surgical options. To seek insurance reimbursement, you will need a prescription from a physician. Most insurance plans cover a prosthesis every two years and most breast prostheses have a two-year manufacturer warranty. Be sure to check with your insurer to see what the benefit is for your policy. If you do not have insurance coverage for this area, check with the American Cancer Society.
Where do I get a prosthesis?
Prostheses can be purchased at some surgical supply stores, pharmacies, custom lingerie shops, or through private home services. The University of Michigan Hospital and Health Systems has its own program known as Personal Touch located in the Orthotics and Prosthetics Center at 2850 S. Industrial Hwy, Suite 400. They have a full line of breast prostheses and bras that are covered by most insurers. Their fitters are certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC). For an appointment, call 734-973-2400. For additional information see their websites at pmr.med.umich.edu/divisions/orthotics-prosthetics or uofmhealth.org/medical-services/orthotics-and-prosthetics.
Wherever you chose to go you should call the location before shopping to ensure a professional fitter can help you. And you can contact the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery support program who will help connect you to provider nearer your home if you prefer.
How do I choose a prosthesis?
There is a large variety of external prostheses available. Prostheses come in different shapes, sizes, weights and consistencies, with custom-made forms available. If you have had a partial breast removal, there are partial prostheses called “equalizers” or “shapers” available. Find a certified fitter specializing in post-mastectomy services that can show you the many alternatives and help you with your decision.