October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to learn about and draw attention to the impact of the disease, which according to the World Health Organization was the most prevalent form of cancer in the world as of 2020.
The treatment for breast cancer generally consists of radiotherapy and mastectomy—surgical removal of breast tissue, either partially or completely. Those who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer may also opt for preventive mastectomy (prophylactic mastectomy).
Since dealing with the many changes that occur following a cancer diagnosis or mastectomy surgery can be daunting, we got in touch with Dr. Waqqas Jalil, an aesthetic and reconstructive surgeon at Form Face + Body to learn more about just what to look for in a mastectomy bra.
What is a mastectomy bra?
Mastectomy bras are undergarments designed specifically for patients who have undergone mastectomy surgery.
While it looks like a traditional bra, it typically has fabric pockets inside the cups that can hold a breast pad or prosthesis in place after surgery.
When should you wear a mastectomy bra?
Although the name may suggest you need to have undergone a mastectomy in order to wear the bra, Dr. Jalil stated that "there are a lot of women who have very large asymmetries, or have undergone lumpectomies, or partial mastectomy that [can] still utilize these garments."
A mastectomy bra is also the best option if you are considering breast reconstruction surgery, and are looking for a temporary undergarment solution.
What to look for when shopping for a mastectomy bra
"One of the biggest criticisms of these bras by patients is that they can get quite hot and sweaty underneath," stated Jalil. "Have a breathable, soft bra that won't [irritate] your surgical incisions."
Breathability is important for keeping surgical incisions clean at any time of the year, but especially during hot summer months when sweat can build up.
Ensuring that you are wearing a bra comfortable enough to be worn for hours at a time is of utmost importance following surgery. Using wireless bras or gel padding is the way to go, according to Jalil.
You can find bras at different price ranges, but keep in mind you will be using these bras for a while.
"It's ideal that you have a good quality garment that can be reusable and last through many washes," shared Jalil.
While knowing your measurements is essential regardless of whether you have had a mastectomy or not, Jalil added that sizing can be particularly important if you only had a mastectomy on one side.
Bras in generally can be expensive, but mastectomy bras or higher quality bras with customization features can cost even more. Jalil recommends taking a good look at the insurance or coverage you have available in order to see if you may be able to expense the bra as a medical garment.
Finding a mastectomy bra may not be an easy task, so if you're on the hunt for one we've put together a round-up of bras specifically designed for life post-surgery below.
Designed specifically for mastectomy surgery, this bra is wireless and gentle on the skin with larger pockets for prosthetic inserts.
With more than 5,500 ratings on Amazon and a 4.4 star review, this Warners bra is a customer favourite. It's machine washable and designed to fit your shape with adjustable straps and a comfortable stretch fabric.
A soft and wireless design to give you support, it hugs curves and disappears under clothing. This lightweight bra is lined with removable cups, letting you choose your desired fullness.
This prosthetic-friendly bra was created with care and in collaboration with Knix customers who have undergone breast surgery. This bra is designed to be soft on scars, has an easy front closure and can accommodate prosthetics.
This style has become a favourite amongst women who wear a prosthesis after undergoing a mastectomy. It has hidden pockets to hold them in place, and features soft fabric that's gentle against the skin.
WonderBra's lightweight wireless bra provides comfortable support and has a cooling fabric called X-Temp TM technology to keep it breathable and comfortable all day especially in warmer temperatures.
The Muse line is ideal for women who have had a mastectomy, since the bras are wireless, adjustable and have lower cut cups while still providing full coverage.