Breast Prosthetics: Are They Right for You?

By Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW
Hester Hill Schnipper

By Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, Boston, MA

Every woman’s opinion on prosthetics evolves with her own experience, taste, and preferences. Here is a question recently posed to me on my blog, Ask Hester, as well as my answer:

Question:

“I had a bilateral mastectomy as a young woman five years ago, with no reconstruction. I tried wearing the prostheses and they were so uncomfortable I stopped. Now I am noticing my posture is suffering and my body image is flaring up as a problem. I am contemplating going back to wearing the prostheses but am self-conscious about how this will be since so many already know me as flat-chested (following surgery)…Could you share information/experience about other women who have done this? Thanks.”

Answer:

This is a question and a concern that I have certainly heard before. I have known women who never use a prosthesis, who always do, who use them sometimes (generally based on the occasion and clothes), and who seem to make up their mind regarding their use on a daily basis. That is all to say that there clearly is not a right answer—just the one that you can be most comfortable with. If you don’t already know it, check out www. breastfree.org. This Web site was created by a patient who had the same surgery you did, and she has created a wonderful resource with lots of information.

It might be worth trying a different kind of prosthesis. Was the bra itself uncomfortable? There are a lot of options.

Regarding your posture, my best advice there would be to check in with a physical therapist who is comfortable with these issues. There may well be some exercises and tricks to help. Clearly, your body image is another issue, and probably more difficult to address. As simplistic as it sounds, pay attention to everything else about your appearance:

Do you have a really good haircut?

Have you learned how to use makeup to its best advantage? (And here is the recommendation for that one: David Nicholas—a magician and a wonderful man—at http://www.makeupdni.com/.)

Clothes, I know, can be difficult, and they’re harder for formal occasions or in the warm weather. Many women layer, wear jackets, wear scarves or shawls or stoles...but you do sometimes feel exposed. One woman I have known for years was recently married for the first time, at about age 50. She chose a traditional wedding gown and had it altered to fit her flat chest. She was a beautiful bride, wearing no prostheses.

Finally, the issue about people noticing “now she has them and now she doesn’t.” The only way around that one is to wrap yourself in the courage you have learned and used many other times through this, wear something beautiful, and hold your head high. As long as you don’t wear C-cup prostheses and a tight sweater, it is quite possible that no one will even notice much. 

To learn more about Hester and her work, you can find her here.

Medical Reviewer: Richard Alteri, MD Last Annual Review Date: 2010-03-01T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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