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How to Choose a Bra After Breast Reconstruction

  |   By Kathy Steligo

After a mastectomy, even if you have breast reconstruction, your bra needs will likely be very different from what you wore before your surgery.

Wearing a bra after breast reconstruction is optional, whether you have new breasts made with implants, your own tissue, or both; your new “girls” will likely be higher and firmer than your natural breasts. But wearing a bra helps to minimize the inevitable effects of movement and gravity, and keeps your new breasts in proper position on your chest. About three months after your reconstruction, when your incisions have healed, and your surgeon gives you the okay to wear regular bras again, you can decide whether you want to or not. But your pre-mastectomy bras will probably no longer fit, because your new breasts may be a different shape or size than your natural breasts.

Meet Your Top 3 Bras!

Projection is the problem

Finding a bra that fits the size and shape of your reconstructed breasts probably won’t be difficult, but finding one that fits the front of your new breast can be more challenging. That’s because in most cases when immediate breast reconstruction (at the same time as mastectomy) is performed, a horizontal incision is made across the nipple and areola, which are removed along with the breast tissue.

breast reconstruction

Kiku T-Shirt Bra
Available in Sizes S-XL
via AnaOno Intimates
 
breast reconstruction
 
Special Edition Alejandra Bra
Available in 2 Colors
Available in sizes S -XL
via AnaOno Intimates

Depending on the location or size of the tumor, additional skin may also need to be removed, which can further compromise projection. Eliminating the nipple in this way and then closing the incision flattens the natural projection of the breast. This usually results in a reconstructed breast without enough projection to fill the front of most bras. (If you choose not to have reconstruction, your breast tissue and most of your breast skin will be removed through a wide incision across your chest, leaving it flat. You may prefer to remain that way or wear prostheses that either adhere to your chest or fit within special “pocketed” bras.) 

breast reconstruction

Stella Midnight Black Mastectomy Bra
Available in bands 32-38, cups A-E
via Red Fern Lingerie

Most important to your post-reconstruction projection is the location of your mastectomy incision. Projection tends to be better when a vertical mastectomy incision is used. It’s also more likely with “nipple-sparing” mastectomies that remove breast tissue but preserve the natural nipple and areola. Before your surgery, it’s a good idea to speak to your breast surgeon about how the placement of your mastectomy incisions can facilitate your reconstruction.

reconstructed breasts

Coobie Lace Coverage Bra
Available in Multiple Colors
One size fits 32A to 36D
via HerRoom

The type of reconstruction can also affect projection on your new breast. Implants tend to produce flatter, round breasts that may limit you to wearing padded bras or seamless stretch bras. Reconstruction with your own tissue creates a more natural-looking breast, but it can still be somewhat flat on the front of the breast if a horizontal mastectomy incision is used.

breast reconstruction

Cosabella Trenta Soft Bra
Available in multiple colors
Available in Sizes XS-L
via HerRoom

You can still wear and enjoy comfortable, pretty and sexy bras. It might just take a bit more time and effort to find the styles and sizes that best fit your new breasts.

breast reconstruction

Free People Let Me Kiss You Bralette
Available in Sizes S-L
via Nordstrom
 
breast reconstruction
 
Wacoal How Perfect No-Wire Bra
Available in bands 30-38, cups A-DD
via Nordstrom

Remember these tips when you’re ready to dress your new breasts:

  • Consult with a professional fitter before choosing a bra, because all bras fit differently. If a fitter is unavailable, check the lingerie brand’s fitting guidelines. (Learn more about bra sizing and styles.)
  • Be more concerned about a proper fit, rather than cup size, especially until you determine what types of bras your new breasts do and do not accommodate.
  • Always try new bras on before buying.

Are you struggling to find bras after breast reconstruction? What’s been your experience?

 

Kathy Steligo is the author of The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook.

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Kathy Steligo is a two-time breast cancer survivor who has had double mastectomies and breast reconstruction, first with implants and then with her own tissue. She writes for Johns Hopkins University Press, is the author of The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook, and co-author of Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Confronting Chronic Pain. Kathy also maintains breastrecon.com, an informational site about mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

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