Your body changes
The side effects and physical changes that follow mastectomy can make getting dressed a tribulation, but finding and wearing the right clothes after surgery can not only make a huge difference in your physical comfort but also in the way you feel about yourself.
Start with the foundation
For women who have opted not to undergo reconstruction after a mastectomy, it is vital to get a good breast form and find the right bra, according to personal development and image consultant Judy Fearn.
"This is really worth pursuing," she says. "Keep trying them on until you find the one that works for you. You'll be amazed at the difference it can make to your silhouette and the way you feel about yourself."1
A good place to start is by consulting an experienced mastectomy fitter. A certified mastectomy fitter (CMF) is someone who has been trained to fit bras and breast prostheses through manufacturer-based programs and been certified through a nationally recognized program such as the Board for Orthotists/Prosthetists or the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics. Most CMFs are women, and some are breast cancer patients and prosthesis wearers as well.2 Their training and experience provides mastectomy fitters with the expertise to recommend bras and prostheses that are comfortable and natural looking; many women develop long-term professional relationships with their fitters and consider them a part of their health care team.3 To locate a CMF in your area, visit http://www.abcop.org/Credentialing_Fitters.asp.
Time for a new look?
To your wardrobe, that is! Fearn suggests taking some of your clothes to a dressmaker who can adapt them to flatter your new shape.
"If you prefer to wear casual clothes, then try not to hide beneath voluminous shapes and several layers," she says. "In fact, if you are small you could try a cotton T-shirt much smaller than you would normally wear—this can be much more comfortable than wearing a bra, especially at first. Experimenting with weights of material can also help define your outline."1
You might also want to consider incorporating shoulder pads into your wardrobe, since they can add balance by holding the garment away from the chest.4
Indulge in a little retail therapy
Revamping your wardrobe may also include making some new purchases. Shop Well with You, a nonprofit organization that uses clothing to promote a sense of wellness among women with cancer, offers the following suggestions when putting together your post-mastectomy look:
- Shirts with a cowl or draped neck add balance and draw away from the chest area
- Patterned shirts (rather than solid colored ones) and shorter necklaces or choker-type necklaces can also draw attention away from the chest area
- Cap sleeves (rather than thin straps) will provide coverage of surgical scars.4
If a trip to the beach or swimming pool—or maybe just a frolic through the lawn sprinklers—is on your agenda, it may also be time to shop for a new swimsuit. Fortunately, today's post-mastectomy swimwear incorporates clever design techniques that provide the coverage you need while still looking great.
Kim Williams, a CMF at Hope's Boutique, a breast cancer boutique at the James Hospital in Dublin, Ohio, suggests looking for suits that offer good coverage, a high neck, and high arms to cover the surgery site. Lace or netting that comes up to the neck can also provide a fashionable way to camouflage the surgery site. You should also opt for suits that "hug the chest wall so it doesn't droop open and show the scar or hollowness," advises Mary Liddell, a consultant at Friends Boutique at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston.5
To find a retail store near you that offers clothing and accessories for breast cancer patients, including swimwear, visit The Breast Care Site's retail store locator at: http://thebreastcaresite.findlocation.com.
A list of retailers offering breast cancer survivor fashions online, through mail-order catalogs and in stores in the New York area is also available through Shop Well with You at: http://www.shopwellwithyou.org/directory.cfm.
This news service and the information presented in it have been developed and created through a content collaboration between Novartis Oncology and VerusMed, An Evolution of Faxwatch™.