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Bra fitting after mastectomy or reconstruction

Bra manufacturers insist that millions of women wear the wrong size bras. According to an international survey of 10,000 women from Swiss lingerie company Triumph, 64 percent of women are wearing the wrong size bra. Other studies suggest that figure is closer to 80 percent. 

While it can be challenging for women with healthy breasts to get the right fit, a well-fitting bra is essential, especially for those who have undergone mastectomy or reconstruction after breast cancer.

Post-mastectomy and lumpectomy procedures vary. Some women opt for a prosthesis, which is essentially a breast form (silicone, foam or fiber-fill) that is placed inside of a bra or attached to the chest wall. Other women choose to undergo surgical reconstruction that will involve the insertion of an implant. 

Depending on the procedure they undergo, women may need to purchase special bras called "mastectomy bras." John Hopkins Medicine advises that mastectomy boutiques and specialty shops carry a variety of prosthetics and garments. Such shops also may employ certified fitters who are skilled at fitting women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer. 

Women should know that their bodies may change after undergoing a mastectomy. It may be necessary to get sized after surgery and frequently thereafter to accommodate for weight loss/gain and other changes as one ages. The Pink Bra, a mastectomy bra specialty retailer, advises every woman should have her bra and breast form fitting checked at least once per year to allow for changes in weight or body shape that may occur as a result of post-surgery treatment.

Certain bra styles may feel and look better to women than others, depending on the type of surgery and reconstruction they had. For example, a camisole bra may help cover surgical scars while a conventional strap bra might be suitable when no tissue has been removed under the clavicle. It may take some trial and error to find a brand, style and size that is most comfortable.

A surgeon will recommend the appropriate time to start wearing a prosthesis or undergo further reconstruction. He or she also can advise when substantial healing has occurred so that bra fittings will be most accurate. A physician may write a prescription for any prosthetic device or mastectomy bra so patients' insurance companies will cover them. John Hopkins says that, in the United States, most insurance companies will cover up to four mastectomy bras per year. 

When properly sized and fitted for a woman's needs, post-mastectomy bras will look natural and feel comfortable.