It’s a fact that a great many women still choose to live without reconstruction after a mastectomy, with only some women undergoing either an Immediate or Delayed breast reconstruction. One of the reasons for this is that a large percentage of women are never offered the possibility of breast reconstruction in the first place. And in some cases, patients might have only been offered an implant-based reconstruction and chosen not to proceed as implants certainly aren’t everyone’s choice.
But there are also a variety of other reasons given for not wanting to have reconstruction after a mastectomy. Some women state age as a factor, whilst others purely regard breast reconstruction as a cosmetic procedure and in their eyes, not desirable or necessary. With breast cancer being the main and primary focus, many patients feel that the difficult cancer treatment is challenging enough, without plastic surgery being added into the mix. Choosing not to reconstruct can be a perfectly happy and healthy choice for many women.
The most important thing though is that EVERY woman should at least be offered the entire range of options at the time of her mastectomy in order to be able to make a well-informed decision. And even if she chooses not to reconstruct immediately, there’s always time to change her mind later on.
Surgery offers one way forward after a mastectomy but won’t be everyone’s choice. If the concept of further medical treatment doesn’t appeal, there’s always the option of wearing prosthesis (artificial breast shape).
Immediately after surgery, the patient will be able to wear a lightweight artificial breast shape inside her bra. These feel like soft cushions and are often referred to as ‘comfy breasts’. Many different types of artificial breast shapes are available free on the NHS, with a new replacement offered every two years. (Private patients may need to pay for this service.)
Once all the scars from surgery have healed and radiotherapy finished, a permanent prosthesis can be worn. (These are fuller and heavier, and normally made from silicone.) The breast shapes come in different sizes and colours and are designed to fit inside your bra and provide a natural shape under clothes. Additionally, there are also specially designed bras for sports and swimming. Here are some BRA Foundation recommendations for suppliers of mastectomy, post-surgery bras and underwear:
- Former patient, Annette Eley, uses her own knowledge of breast cancer and radiotherapy for her range of underwear: www.annettedesigns.co.uk
- Nicolajane.com is a well-established supplier of great looking and comfortable underwear, nightwear and swimwear for post-mastectomy women, some modelled by breast cancer patients. The company also sell prostheses and has a prosthesis helpline: 0845 095 2121. www.nicolajane.com
- Rigby and Peller have been in the underwear business for over 40 years and are a leading brand. They also offer a personalised bra fitting and advice service to women who’ve undergone mastectomy. www.rigbyandpeller.com
- Eloise.com for mastectomy underwear, including sports bras and accessories www.eloise.co.uk
- And of course there’s the UK staple, www.marksandspencer.com
Here is a selection of recommended organisations that offer patients further support and advice on prosthesis, and where to buy them:
- Cancer Research UK: www.cancerresearchuk.org
- Breast Cancer Care: www.breastcancercare.org.uk
- MacMillan Cancer Support: www.macmillan.org.uk