Any change in your appearance after breast surgery may affect your self-esteem and feelings of femininity. The loss of a breast or breasts, or losing your hair, may cause a type of grief.
Having a breast reconstruction or wearing a prosthesis after a mastectomy can help improve your self-confidence, as can wearing a wig or other head covering after hair loss. Try to focus on yourself as a whole person and not just on the part of you that has changed.
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Breast forms and prostheses
Breast forms and prostheses are synthetic breasts or parts of a breast worn inside a bra or attached to the body with adhesive to give the appearance of a real breast. They can be used after a mastectomy or breast conserving surgery.
In the first couple of months after surgery, you may choose to wear a temporary soft breast form. This will be more comfortable next to your scar. A free bra and breast form (or forms) are available through Breast Cancer Network Australia as part of the My Care Kit. Ask your breast care nurse to order you a kit.
Your doctor or breast care nurse will discuss the best time for you to be fitted for a permanent breast prosthesis. This is usually once your scar has healed.
A prosthesis is usually made from silicone and has the shape, feel and weight of a natural breast. It can help you to maintain good posture and prevent neck and back problems.
It is recommended that you see a trained fitter who can help you choose the right prosthesis. To find out where you can get fitted for a prosthesis, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or ask your breast care nurse. You can read about different types of prostheses in Cancer Council’s Breast Prostheses and Reconstruction booklet.
The cost of a permanent prosthesis ranges from about $250 to $450. Financial assistance towards the cost is available from Medicare through the External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program. Women with private health insurance may be able to get a further rebate for a prosthesis depending on their cover.
A breast reconstruction is an operation to make a new breast shape. Sometimes the reconstructed breast is called a breast mound. You may choose to have a breast reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy or later.
The aim of a breast reconstruction is to make a breast that looks as natural and similar to your other breast as possible, however, the reconstructed breast will not look or feel exactly the same.
There are several options:
- Implant reconstruction
- Flap reconstruction
You can read about different types of reconstruction in Cancer Council’s Breast Prostheses and Reconstruction booklet.
If you lose your hair during chemotherapy treatment, you may want to wear a wig, scarf, turban or hat while it’s growing back. Another option is to leave your head bare.
You can borrow a wig – some hospitals and cancer care units provide wigs for free or a small fee. You can also buy a wig, although some types can be expensive. Some private health funds cover part of the cost of wigs – check with your health fund.
For more details about borrowing or buying wigs, read Cancer Council’s Hair loss fact sheet, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or ask your treatment team.