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Choosing a Prosthesis After Breast Cancer Surgery

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Whether to wear a breast form (prosthesis) after breast surgery is a very personal decision. Some women feel better about themselves when their clothes fit just as they did before surgery. Other women feel comfortable just as they are.

You can buy these forms already made, or they can be custom-made from a mold of your chest.

You may want to wear a breast form if:

  • You are waiting for reconstructive surgery.
  • You have decided not to have reconstructive surgery.
  • You have had reconstructive surgery, but your breasts don't look even.
  • You have had only part of your breast removed (lumpectomy).

What kinds of prosthetics are used after breast surgery?

A wide variety of breast forms camera.gif and accessories—from mastectomy bras to stick-on nipples—are available to a woman who has had one or both breasts removed or who has had part of a breast removed. They come in many different shapes, colors, and materials, depending on what you need.

  • Breast form shapes
    • Full. A full breast form can be used to replace an entire breast.
    • Partial. This form is for use by a woman who has had breast-conserving surgery. She may want a partial form to fill out that side of the bra.
    • Shell. This form is hollow and fits over the breast tissue. A woman's reconstructed breast may not look exactly like her other one. She may want to use a shell on either the reconstructed breast or the natural breast to make the chest look more balanced.
    • Nipple only. This artificial nipple sticks onto the reconstructed breast when reconstruction does not include a nipple or you just don't like the way the new nipple looks. It can also be stuck onto a breast form that does not have a nipple.
    • Nipple cover. This can be used to cover a natural nipple when you don't want it to show through clothing. Sometimes reconstructed breasts don't have nipples, so you can use a nipple cover on your other breast to create a more balanced look.
  • Breast form materials
    • Silicone. This is the most expensive type of breast form. It looks and moves more naturally than other breast forms. It is also heavier than cotton or other material. Silicone breast forms can make your skin feel hot and sweaty.
    • Fiberfill or foam. These are lighter and cooler than silicone. They also cost a lot less. They don't look as natural under form-fitting tops, but they work well for lounging at home. They also work well if your breast is still healing from surgery.
    • Homemade. Many women use things they already have in their closet—from a shoulder pad to a wad of nylons—to fill out their bra cup. If you always wear loose-fitting tops that don't reveal your breast shape, a homemade breast form may be all you want.
    • Waterproof or water resistant. You can wear most breast forms when you swim, but many of them soak up water and get quite heavy. If you swim a lot, you might think about getting a special breast form just for swimming.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 28, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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