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Breast Cancer Clothing: Bras, Scarves, Accessories, and More

Women with breast cancer today have a mind-boggling array of options, from wigs and scarves to specialty bras and swimsuits.
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Not Your Grandmother's Mastectomy Bra continued...

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 reconstruction.

In the Swim

Like bras, swimsuits for women who've had breast cancer have taken a great leap forward over the past several years. "The suits are out of this world," says Marianne Kelly, founder and director of the Image Recovery Center at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. "There are two-pieces, one-pieces, skirted suits, tankinis, detachable skirts, sarongs that match, and more athletic suits that fit higher at the top and provide more support."

The most up-to-date, contemporary swimsuit styling comes from a line called Anita, Sloan-Kettering's McLeod tells WebMD. "They have the most stylish, but they're also higher priced," she says. "Amoena also has a fabulous line, and we rely on them for a lot of body styles that other manufacturers don't make, like a blouson suit."

The most popular swimsuit style for women who've had a mastectomy, says McLeod, is the tankini. "When you're wearing a one-piece suit, every time you have to take it down to go to the bathroom, the breast is going with the swimsuit. Women have just snapped up the tankinis, and there is a wealth of designs in sizes from 6 to 26." Other companies making mastectomy swimsuits include It Figures, T.H.E., and Gottex.

Kelly would still like to see manufacturers offer some other options, like yoga tops. "I think it's something we'll see in the future -- more athletic and sportswear that will allow women a little more freedom about wearing prostheses and feeling confident."

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