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Buying the right bra following a mastectomy


playtex mink bra

playtex mink bra

Guest article by Beverley Webb


Buying a properly fitted bra is not always straightforward. But what if you have to factor in having a mastectomy as well?  We asked specialist bra fitter Beverley Webb what her advice would be.

Buying a bra is much the same as buying Shoes.

We buy them for the following reasons:

They look good
They fit well
They make us feel better
And we choose by style, colour and fit.

They are both emotive purchases, but also we all have basic requirements when buying – You wouldn’t buy a stiletto shoe if you were going running!

So let’s try and take out some of the mystery when buying a bra.

The band of the bra which goes round your body should fit you firmly enough but give you room to breathe. When looking in the mirror from the side, it should sit in a straight line from front to back.  The most important function of the band is to support the weight of your breasts.

If under wired, the wire needs to be under your breast and following the whole breast shape round.  It must sit close to your breast (not half an inch or lower down!)  and when you put your bra on… don’t forget to lean forward and put your hand inside your cup and sweep your breast from the side and bottom of the cup to ensure all breast is inside the wire to be supported properly. This is even more important if you are wearing a prosthetic breast as it ensures the bra is fitting correctly and will give symmetry if wearing the correct size.
A non wired bra needs to work in much the same way, ensuring the band is sitting under your breast but without the wire.

Regardless of the style, plunge, balcony, push up etc the bridge between the cups need to sit back against your chest wall.  If it stands away (when looking down) it means your cup is not large enough for you.  This is also the case if you are double-busting on the top cup and/or your wire cannot sit completely under your breast.

Finally the straps on your shoulders should be adjusted for comfort and a little extra support.  But they must not be taking all the strain, a classic example of this is when the bra rides up your back and the straps are very short. The weight of your breasts will not be supported and will hang low.

Once you have a bra fitting you correctly, you are then able to make choices on the style right for you, i.e. sports bra and what level of support you will need.  What bra’s you like to wear, in colour and also cleavage height.  This is particularly important if you are wearing a prosthesis- Your basic requirements of a properly fitting bra are very similar, however you have other considerations to think about such as coverage on the breast.  Many women feel their choices are limited following a mastectomy, however it’s about making a few adjustments and still having choice.

A prosthetic will sit well in any good fitting bra

A prosthetic will sit well in any good fitting bra and a pocket can be added to ensure extra comfort and confidence.

I always recommend my ladies only buy 1 or 2 bras before their operation as your body will change during treatment.  When all treatment is finished and any scarring has healed, then you can enjoy buying several bras with matching knickers in all colours :o)

There are many myths and concerns ladies have so let’s look at them:

Myth: You should use a tape measure to find your size.

Fact: this is a good way as a guide for a starting point but these days with modern fabrics, we have more movement.  For example if a tape measure is showing you are a 38D and you wear a size 14 top often the correct  bra size could be  a 34E (same size wire just smaller band so the cup goes up).

Myth: I like to wear a bigger band for comfort

Fact: by wearing a bigger band, your bra cannot sit in the correct place and often you will find that when you raise your arms up, the bra follows and you find yourself pulling your bra down and constantly adjusting it.  Also it will constantly move and aggravate any scarring, and if your bra is pocketed for a prosthetic the pocket will move and ripple which is very uncomfortable.

The only times to consider a bigger band is if you are going to have surgery and to accommodate any swelling and tenderness for comfort,  but know you can tighten the band as you heal.

Myth: I need to wear a wired bra at night
Fact: Some ladies do need to wear a bra for comfort especially if you have big breasts; however a good non wired bra is the best.  It allows for you sleeping at all angles and a wire could dig into your breast flesh and this is not a safe and good option.

Myth: If I wear a correctly fitting bra then my softer flesh spills over at the side:

Fact: Yes a better fitting bra sits closer into your body, but wearing a bra with a higher side helps to give a smoother line and better support and your breasts sit better and higher.

Myth: I can’t wear a normal swim suit after a mastectomy

Fact: you can but just think about when buying a bra, some different requirements regarding coverage etc and ensure that a good pocket is added to keep your prosthesis in place.  There are swimming prosthetics available which ensures symmetry.

Myth: I don’t need a bra to support me after reconstructive or enhancement surgery

Fact: you still need to ensure your bra is supporting your breasts correctly.  Most doctors will advise you do not wear a wired bra after reconstruction and sadly this advice is given because too many women wear the wrong size wire.

If you have had breast enhancement, you need a supportive bra even more.  Especially if, you are prone to stretch marks, it is not uncommon for them to appear on the top of your breasts if your bra is not supporting the additional weight.  Also it will prevent them from sagging in the future.
Just remember when buying your bra, that as in shoes, we are not always the same size in every style and shop.  Be aware of what size you are and look at each bra you buy as individual purchases.

A good bra will not only lift and enhance your breasts; it can greatly change your overall shape and posture.  More importantly, it brings out the best in every woman.

Beverley can be contacted at http://www.beautifulbosom.co.uk/

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  1. Jayne M Cox

    May 5, 2011

    Brilliantly informative! I know what clients have told me about self confidence after mastectomy or any image changing event in life.It’s not easy to pick yourself up again. Sound advice from bra fitting experts can make a huge difference rto self esteem and help a woman face the world again. Thanks for sharing this.


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