Choosing a prosthesis requires a little work on the part of the wearer. Understanding options is not only helpful, but necessary.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
It’s that time again! Time for new prostheses! I’m excited. I never thought I’d get excited over picking out silicone breast forms, but this year, I am. This will be my third pair of prostheses and while the other two pair are tucked away in my dresser drawer, I’m looking forward to test driving a new model.
After breast cancer, I decided not to reconstruct my breasts. I did not want the trauma of going through another surgical procedure. I opted for prostheses. They would be one of the fastest ways to fill the space where my breasts once resided. It would be easy to slip them into a bra or bathing suit. Prostheses would allow me to look like I did before undergoing surgery, and that was a huge relief to me.
Immediately after I’d healed from surgery, I made my first trip to choose prostheses. Upon recommendation from my breast surgeon, I visited a local shop specializing in breast cancer items. As I entered the store, I was overwhelmed. There were so many choices and I could barely focus. I was thankful for a trained and experienced fitter. She walked me through the entire process step by step. She answered questions and made me feel comfortable in a very uncomfortable situation. I had no idea what I was doing so I relied heavily upon her wisdom and direction. What a godsend she was to me!
On my second visit to choose breast forms, I felt like a pro! I knew exactly what I wanted. It made it so much easier to get in and out of the store quickly. But even though I was familiar with the store and the inventory, there was a lot involved in picking out the perfect set of breast forms. Considerations included size, weight, color, construction and comfort. Technology today has allowed breast prostheses to look and feel very realistic. There are many models from which to choose. Most are worn inside a mastectomy bra but there are some models which attach to the body with adhesive tape. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and prices. Most are made from silicone gel, foam or fiberfill. Some are covered with a washable material like latex or fabric. Many of the models are weighted to help them stay in place inside a bra. Others use adhesive or magnets to help them adhere to the chest wall. The breast forms come in different cup sizes. They range from very small, AA to very large, HH. They can come with distinctive nipples or none at all. Each breast form varies in weight depending on size. The weights range from extremely lightweight (usually foam or fiber-filled models) to very heavy for the silicone gel types of forms. There are plenty of choices for projection as well. Some newer breast forms are backed with a cooling comfort gel. These make summertime wear a little more pleasant. Some specialty forms are designed for swimming or other activities. With all these choices, a woman can decide what works best for her personal needs.
A lightweight model (polyester fiber or foam) is recommended when you're recovering from surgery. These lighter breast forms are more comfortable and don’t irritate fresh scars. They are also a good choice for wearing during warm weather because they don’t sweat against skin and can be machine washed. A silicone prosthesis may feel more natural for daily wear. For women who prefer to wear them during intimate situations, many women find they offer a more natural feel for their partner. Breast forms come in asymmetrical forms (designed only for the left side or only for the right side) or in symmetrical forms (these work well on either side of the chest.) Prostheses can be expensive, but most insurance companies allow for the purchase of new breast prostheses every two years. Even with great care, silicone breast forms can get damaged and begin to leak or suffer product breakdown; therefore it’s necessary to replace them. For insurance to cover the cost of breast forms, a medical prescription is usually required. The cost of prosthetic breast forms can range from under $100 to over $500 for high-quality products. Custom made options are available, but come at a premium.
Before going to select your prosthesis, it’s important to think about your choices. A first-timer may will need help choosing the perfect form, but exchanges are usually allowed as long as they are within the first week of purchase. Be sure and check with your store for their individual policy.
As I go to make my new selection this week, I’ve already decided that I need to go down a size. The last time I made my selection, I chose prostheses that were larger than I intended. I found they were uncomfortable and heavy. I intend to choose a much smaller and lighter weight model on this trip. Some may think size doesn’t really matter in an artificial breast form, but to the wearer, it certainly does. To a tender chest wall, even an ounce or two of additional silicone can prove to be too much. But aren’t we thankful we get to have choices? It would be terrible if one size really and truly did fit all!