How to choose a bra after a mastectomy

A look at the practical and emotional challenges of choosing a bra after mastectomy surgery.

Finding a bra after undergoing a mastectomy can be difficult. You need one that fits comfortably, can hold a prosthetic securely in place (if necessary) and doesn’t rub against scarred skin. Plus you probably also want a bra that looks attractive.

Nicole's story

Nicole Lanyon was diagnosed with breast cancer the day before her 39th birthday. She had a mastectomy, as well as 6 months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Once the burns from the radiotherapy had died down I was able to get fitted for a prosthetic. I went to the store quite excited to get a new bra, but was dismayed at the range available to me,” she says.
“They looked like something your grandmother might wear – something practical that you put on and forget about – and they only came in black, white or beige with thick straps like a sports bra. 

“I felt like I’d just had my femininity stolen from me and there was no way to get it back. I bought a boring bra thinking I’d be able to go home and get something better online, but it was the first time that Google didn't have the answer.”

After discovering that there were only a handful of companies making bras specifically for women who’d had a mastectomy, Lanyon set out to change the ‘beige’ post-surgery lingerie world.

“I wanted to give something back. I thought it would be a great way to put a smile on women’s faces and also have a happy ending for myself,” she says.

How a mastectomy bra differs from other bras

‘Mastectomy bras’ have an internal pocket that a prosthetic breast can be fitted inside, so that it doesn’t move around. Most, but not all, are wire-free because some surgeons recommend not wearing wired bras, as they could potentially pierce a breast augmentation or implants.
bra mastectomy woman

What to look for

Fit and comfort are obviously the two biggest things to consider. Many bras have stretchy mesh pockets, but mesh can also rub uncomfortably against skin, so a 100 per cent cotton pocket is best. 

Fit and comfort are obviously the two biggest things to consider.

Many women who have had breast cancer are also going through menopause, so synthetic material can be uncomfortable for those experiencing hot flushes and sweating. Women undergoing radiotherapy are also advised to wear natural fibres like cotton that are cool and won’t rub their skin.
Look for lots of hook and eye options at the back. This is good not only for support but also if the woman has fluid retention and swelling (lymphedema), which can occur when lymph nodes are removed, or damaged after cancer treatment.
Lanyon also found that having thin-strapped, colourful bras, which she could wear out at night with her dressier clothes, was a much needed mood-booster.
The biggest thing you yearn for is for your life to return to normal. You won’t ever be the old you again, but your new normal can be as close as possible to the old you.”
Lanyon's website is called Nicolette and sells a range of bras that are practical and affordable, but also flattering and feminine. Five per cent of the retail price of each bra is donated to the breast cancer support charity The McGrath Foundation.
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