For some women, having a fitting for a prosthesis can be an emotional or distressing experience, especially the first time. You may be embarrassed at the thought of having another woman see the site of the surgery, or feel upset about needing a breast prosthesis. Professional fitters regularly see women who have been in a similar situation and will take a sensitive approach.
You may also find it helpful to see some breast forms before your appointment (or even before your operation), to give you an idea of what to expect. Ask your breast care nurse to show you samples of breast forms and bras. You may also find it beneficial to talk to a woman who is using a breast prosthesis. See Seeking Support for information about volunteer peer support.
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Where to buy a breast prosthesis
It is recommended that you see a trained fitter who can help you choose the right prosthesis, as well as a pocketed bra if necessary.
You can buy a breast prosthesis from a number of retail outlets, including specialist stores that sell only breast forms and related products, the lingerie section of some major department stores and lingerie boutiques. There may also be a free home service available in your area.
It’s advisable to make an appointment. This allows you to have uninterrupted time with the fitter. When you go to the fitting, you might like to take a friend with you for support. The other person doesn’t have to come into the dressing room with you.
If you live in a rural area, you might have fewer options for what you can buy and where you can shop. Making a trip to a shop in a large town or city may be worthwhile. This might also appeal if you don’t want to shop where people know you.
You can also browse online or ask retailers to send catalogues so you can look at the full range of bras and breast prostheses available. If you see something you like, you may be able to order it, or a fitter can order it in for you. However, it is recommended that you see a fitter to be measured in person, particularly if you are buying a breast prosthesis for the first time.
Go to Costs and Financial Assistance for more on costs. Ask the store about its returns policy. You may be able to exchange the breast form for a different style or size if the one you buy feels uncomfortable. However, this is not always possible, particularly for attachable breast forms.
Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for a list of stores where you can purchase breast prostheses, adhesive nipples, mastectomy lingerie and accessories. You can also use Breast Cancer Network Australia’s local service directory to find a specialist prosthesis fitter in your area..
At the fitting
A fitting usually takes 40–60 minutes. You will have privacy when being measured and getting changed. Here is a list of questions you might like to ask your breast care nurse or a breast prosthesis fitter.
Most fitters carry out the fitting in a similar way:
- The female fitter will probably check your bra size with a tape measure.
- The fitter will ask you about what type of bras you like and how active you are, or will check if your own bras are suitable.
- If you’ve had a double mastectomy, the fitter will ask you what breast size you were and what size you would like to be. You might like to keep your original size or go up or down a size.
- The fitter brings you a selection of pocketed bras to choose from.
- When you’ve chosen your bra, the fitter will help you try on several breast forms in different shapes, sizes and weights until you find a good fit.
- The fitter often has a slip-on T-shirt (like a smock) for you to try over the bra and prosthesis to check that the form is the right size and looks symmetrical under clothing. You can also put your own clothes on, but many women find the T-shirt easier.
- The fitter shows you how to check the breast form sits properly in the pocketed bra, and will discuss how to take care of it.
Choosing a bra
Wearing a well-fitting bra will ensure your breast prosthesis is comfortable and fits well. While some women find that their ordinary bra, sports bra or sports crop top adequately supports their prosthesis, pocketed bras are specially designed for this purpose.
Features of a pocketed bra include:
Getting the right fit
The key to a well-fitting breast form is getting it to match your natural breast in shape and size as closely as possible. With a correctly fitting bra, it is unlikely that a form will be noticeable to others or fall out.
You can bring your own bras (regular, post-surgical or pocketed) to the fitting or your fitter can suggest a bra from their stock. Getting the right fit will help give you a natural shape under clothes. Many women say this makes them feel whole again.
Aim for a fit that looks natural and feels comfortable. The various styles and materials used in making the forms may feel quite different on your skin or in the bra. The fitter will also check that the breast form fits correctly. A good fit will not obstruct the flow of lymph fluid in your body nor cause swelling in the arm (lymphoedema).
Most women find they get used to wearing the breast form, although this may take some time. If the breast form continues to feel uncomfortable or looks obvious, the fit is probably not right. Ask the fitter if you can be refitted.
These questions may help you decide if the fit is right.