When you're first diagnosed with breast cancer, all you can
think about is "Am I going to die?" But as you begin to learn to live
with your cancer diagnosis, you start to think about other
things, like "What am I going to look like bald?" It may sound
frivolous, but ask any breast cancer survivor and she'll tell you that she
thought a lot about whether to splurge on that real human hair wig or
what she'd look like in a swimsuit.
Feeling good about how you look is an important part of feeling good about
yourself in general. And no one deserves to feel good about herself more than a
woman who's surviving breast cancer. Fortunately, women with breast cancer
today have a mind-boggling array of options, from wigs and scarves to specialty
bras and swimsuits, designed with their needs in mind.
WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast
cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The
series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these
women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Erica Seymore, 34, lives in the Miami area. She never
felt any lumps in her breast. But she noticed a red, itchy mark on her left
breast, and also felt some pain that would come and go in that breast. "It
When Theresa McLeod started fitting mastectomy bras in the 1970s, there were three bras and
two breast forms. Today, in the boutique she manages at the Evelyn Lauder
Breast Center of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, McLeod
stocks a running inventory of about 3,500 bras in 30 to 40 styles. They range
in sizes from 32A and AA up to 52DD. "You can really get anything you
want," McLeod tells WebMD. "Within the last three to five years,
options have really expanded. You can get microfibers, V-cut bras, lace
appliques, and a huge selection of seamless styles."
Kate Rubien, manager of Underneath It All, the boutique at the Clinical
Cancer Center at New York University Cancer Institute, agrees. "Not long
ago, we were excited to get black," she says. "Now we have all kinds of
colors -- one bra comes in mint green, blue, burgundy, and pink. We stock some
bras that look just like expensive Wacoal bras."
Mastectomy bras still look a bit different than regular bras. Because they
include pockets for breast prostheses, they often cover much more of the breast
than do regular bras. But you can also ask to have a pocket sewn into your own
bra to accommodate a breast form. The department store Nordstrom will do this
to any bra they sell, or you can ask at the hospital where you're being
You should be fitted for a mastectomy bra by a certified fitter. Most cancer
programs either have boutiques that do fittings or provide referrals. But once
you've gotten a good fit, you can buy beautiful mastectomy bras online.
Nordstrom and JC Penney also carry mastectomy bras. Most insurers will pay for
at least one mastectomy bra per year (along with coverage for prostheses).
Check with your carrier about coverage.
If you've had a lumpectomy and don't need a full breast prosthesis, you
may still want to get a small breast form for symmetry. "It's like filling
in a missing piece to the puzzle," Rubien tells WebMD. "I have eight
different styles of partial breast forms -- different shapes and thicknesses --
in a full range of sizes." Or you may prefer a "molded cup" bra
that is pre-shaped and easily filled out.
Other options available include a soft camisole that women can wear during
their post-surgical period with pockets to hold drainage tubing and bottles.
Many insurers also pay for one of these, says McLeod. There is also an array of
self-adhering nipples and nipple covers for women in various stages of