Key questions

Below you can find some important questions and answers that will help you understand more about breast prosthesis and reconstruction.

Learn more about:

What is a breast prosthesis?

A breast prosthesis (plural: prostheses) is a synthetic breast or part of a breast that is worn in a bra or under clothing to replace all or part of your breast. The manufacturers usually call them breast forms.

Prostheses can be used after either the whole breast (mastectomy) or after part of the breast (breast-conserving surgery or lumpectomy) is removed.

Most breast prostheses have the weight, shape and feel of a natural breast. They are attached directly onto the skin with adhesive or inserted into specially-made pockets in bras, swimwear, activewear and sleepwear.

What is a breast reconstruction?

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 – see Types of breast reconstruction on the next page. Reconstructed breasts may not have a nipple, but one can be made surgically. Otherwise, stick-on nipples or nipple tattoos can be used.

Types of breast reconstruction

A new breast shape is created using an implant, or a flap of your own skin, muscle and fat from another part of your body.

Learn more about these two types of breast reconstruction:

Do I need to have a prosthesis or a reconstruction?

Deciding whether or not to wear a prosthesis or get a reconstruction after surgery is a personal decision. Reactions to the loss of a breast or breasts vary from woman to woman. Only you can choose what feels right.

You do not need to make a decision immediately. Unless you are considering having a reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy, there is no time limit on when you must decide. Take the time you need to consider your options.

There may be a number of reasons why women who have had a mastectomy choose to use a breast prosthesis or to have a reconstruction. However, some women decide not to use a prosthesis or have a reconstruction. For example, if you had breast-conserving surgery, you may feel that your breast shape didn’t change much.

Some reasons women choose to wear a breast prosthesis or have a reconstruction include:

Replacing the weight of the lost breast – When a breast is removed, the body is no longer balanced. This can cause a slight curving of the spine and a drop of the shoulder on the affected side. These changes may lead to lower back and neck pain over time. Issues with balance after having a mastectomy can affect women of any breast size. A prosthesis or reconstruction can help with balance.

Creating symmetry when wearing clothing – Most women don’t have identical breasts – the muscle and tissue on each side of the body is different. However, after a mastectomy, these differences are usually more noticeable. A prosthesis or reconstruction may help you feel and look more symmetrical.

Restoring self-esteem – You may find that recreating a more natural appearance with a prosthesis or reconstruction helps to boost your confidence – including sexual confidence – about the way your body looks after a mastectomy. For more information on this go to body image and sexuality issues.

Adjusting to the diagnosis and treatment – Using a prosthesis or having a reconstruction may help some women cope better with the experience of cancer. You might feel like you are taking control of your appearance.

This information was last reviewed in June 2017
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