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.
In addition to removing the breast cancer through a mastectomy or lumpectomy, doctors need to know whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast. This is done by removing one or more lymph nodes from under your arm on the same side of the affected breast.
Lymph node biopsy and dissection has two main purposes. It removes the breast cancer that may have spread into the armpit (axilla). And it allows the surgeon to stage your cancer by learning how far the cancer has spread. There are two ways...
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 treated.