It’s October, which means among many things, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the single most common type of cancer diagnosed in the world, with around 56,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. Many of these cases can be treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but sadly around 81% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer will need surgery. These surgeries can be to remove a tumour, some breast tissue or even the whole breast, known as a mastectomy. After the surgery life can be a little different, including your bras.
Should I Wear A Bra After A Mastectomy?
One of the first questions most women ask after they’ve had breast surgery is if they need to wear a bra. The good news is that unless you’ve been specifically advised to wear a surgical bra by your surgeon or breast cancer nurse, you don’t need anything special.
However, breast surgery and radiotherapy can make your chest feel particularly sensitive, so most women tend to ditch their normal bras in favour of something softer and a bit more forgiving. It can also be useful to switch to a front-fastening bra, as these can be easier to put on while you’re tender.
In the first year after your surgery, the type of bra you need to wear will change.
What Type Of Bra Should I Wear?
In the first year after a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, your breasts will be changing a lot. It can take up to a year for such a delicate area to fully heal, the nerves to repair, and any skin changes from radiotherapy or chemotherapy to settle down. You may also experience weight loss or gain during this time if you’re undergoing other treatments, which can mean your breasts change shape or size.
So during this first year, you’re going to need a different kind of bra than you may be used to. It doesn’t matter what brand you choose, as long as your bra has:
- Soft seams
- A wide under band
- Deep front and side panels
- Full cups
- Cup separation (so that the centre of the bra between the cups is sitting flat against your chest
- Fully adjustable straps
- Minimal detailing
- No underwiring
- High cotton content (for comfort)
All of this means you can be more comfortable, and allows for possible after-effects of the surgery like swelling, and helps you get used to your post-surgery chest. Once the skin in your chest has healed and settled, you can wear your normal bras again.
Will My Size Be The Same?
Surgery on your breast area brings a lot of changes, and once you’re in recovery you might find your existing bras don’t fit as well anymore. If this is you, then you’ll need to get refitted to find your new size. Most high street shops and specialist lingerie stores have experienced bra fitters who can measure you to find the right size, and these ladies will have specialist training in helping women who have had breast surgery. If you’re worried, you can always call ahead to make sure you can be seen by an expert.
What Is A Bra Pocket?
Depending on the type of surgery you had and your personal preference, you may want to have a prosthesis fitted to give you a more normal looking chest. If this is the route you choose, then you will either need to wear a well-fitting bra with a full cup, or to wear a bra with a bra ‘pocket’. This is basically a fabric pocket that’s sewn into the bra cup to hold the prosthesis comfortably in place. This gives you a more natural appearance and can make a lot of women feel more comfortable. Mastectomy bras often come with an optional bra pocket, but you can adapt any ordinary bra by sewing a piece of stretchy material across the back of the cup to act as a pocket.
Breast cancer is never a pleasant thing to go through, especially if you have to face life-altering surgery at the same time. You can find resources about breast cancer here, here and here, and we can provide you with a wide range of post-surgery underwear options. And remember ladies – check yourselves regularly!