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    No.412: What is a Mastectomy Bra? History & Guide

    There is a sense of immeasurable remorse when a person has a mastectomy. The weight of the world's idea of what breasts are and what it means to live without them can feel as if it is too much to bear. But when having a mastectomy is inevitable, it is imperative that you not only take care of yourself mentally but physically, as well — and that is where a mastectomy bra comes in. 

    Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about a mastectomy bra, its history, and why you need one from  AnaOno after this surgery.

    What is a Mastectomy Bra? History & Guide

    Since the 16th century, medical professionals have been studying the cause and treatment options for cancer. John Hunter, known as the Scottish father of investigative surgery, identified lymph as a cause of breast cancer during the Renaissance. Lumpectomies were also performed by surgeons but did so without anesthesia. 

    In 1882, Dr.  William Stewart Halsted developed a specialized treatment that removed tumors and nearby lymph nodes — then, he performed the first  radical mastectomy. In 1932, a new approach to mastectomy was introduced that was less disfiguring.

    And while breast cancer treatments continue to dramatically and positively change, mastectomy bras continued to be a few centuries behind — that was until  AnaOno came to be. 

    Many things change after breast surgery. One you may not imagine is your underwear drawer. This is exactly how Founder and CEO, Dana Donofree, felt after her breast surgery. She scoured the globe just looking for a bra that fit but continued to show up braless.

    That’s when she knew something had to change. Using her many years of fashion design experience, she (re)designed bras until creating one that fit her body that wasn't only comfortable, but beautiful too.

    Mastectomy Bra?

    A mastectomy bra is one that you wear after having a single or double mastectomy. It might look like any other bra, but it is equipped with many features that help make you more comfortable. You should purchase a mastectomy bra before you have your surgery so that you have one ready to go following the operation. 

    After breast surgery, the breast shape is altered dramatically. Having a mastectomy bra will also allow you to be more comfortable both physically and mentally. 

    "Mastectomy bras provide a secure solution and a cosmetic, visually balanced approach to that altered shape and can help a woman feel confident in her clothes," said Dr. Stephanie L. Graff, MD. Medical Advisor at the  Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research and Clinical Research and the Director of the  Breast Program at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health.

    How Does a Mastectomy Bra Work?

    Mastectomy bras have pockets in both cups (bilaterally pocketed), and you can wear breast prosthesis as needed. For example, if you have a single mastectomy, you may only need one prosthesis. Mastectomy bras also have lots of special features that provide comfort to a person after this surgery.

    "The breast prosthesis can be removed for laundering the garment, or moving between mastectomy bras, but also holds the prosthesis securely so it does not slip out or move around," said Dr. Graff. 

    Be sure that your breast prosthesis is not too light, heavy, or loose, as they may move around when you partake in activities or even fall out of the pocket.

    Mastectomy Bra Special Features

    When buying a  mastectomy bra, support and comfort are the two main things to consider. Be sure to also check for the following unique features below before purchasing. 

    • Soft linings. You'll need a bra that won't rub sensitive skin or scars as they heal. Soft linings will be vital to ensuring you have a comfortable recovery.
    • Pockets. Specialized pockets accommodate breast prostheses should you want them. Cups can easily slide in and out.
    • Wide, adjustable straps. Mastectomy bra straps sit higher on your shoulders and are thick to allocate weight after your operation — they also better support the remaining tissue on your back. It will make it easier for you to get comfortable and find your most comfortable fit thanks to the wide, adjustable straps.
    • Non-wired and thick underband. Most mastectomy bras are non-wired, as they can dig into your skin and be uncomfortable. Look for a wide underband to offer additional support that won't sit directly on your scars — wired bras are not recommended.
    • Supportive seams. If you did not undergo reconstruction, your breast prostheses might be heavier than what your body is used to. Supportive seams will help assist with this weight and keep you comfortable.  
    • Front-clasping. Mastectomy bras zip, button, or clasp in the front because having a mastectomy can inhibit your shoulder mobility.

    For maximum comfort, Dr. Graff also recommends getting a mastectomy bra professional fit. You can reach us at anytime via  cs@anaono.com to schedule a fitting with one of our fit experts. 

    "Anytime you have a change in weight or as the years slip past, our changing bodies mean our bras are different sizes than they used to be," Dr. Graff said. "Being professionally fit ensures you will have the most comfortable bra that fits your body correctly." 

     

    woman in dusty rose pink bra smiling

     

    How to Choose Your First Mastectomy Bra

    When choosing your mastectomy bra, there are many factors to take into consideration. Each mastectomy bra is unique and is equipped with different features tailored towards people and the type of surgery they had, for example, mastectomy vs double mastectomy and so on. Consult with your doctor before your surgery to know which type of mastectomy bra will be best for you. Keep in mind that comfort is the main priority, but that there are also lots of affordable and fashionable options out there for you to choose from. Check out all of AnaOno's mastectomy bras modeled on patients using their forms and AnaOno F(oo)Bs ®

    Shop Mastectomy Bras

    Do I have to wear a bra after having a mastectomy? 

    Yes, you will need a mastectomy bra after your surgery and several months into recovery. Your surgical team will recommend a combination of dressings and garments to you depending on what surgery you had.

    "In the immediate post-surgical window, be sure you are asking for and following the specific advice of your breast surgeon and/or plastic/reconstructive surgeon," Dr. Graff said.

    Initially, you will need to wear a post-mastectomy bra, dressings, garments, compression dressings, and other items that will help with swelling, surgical drains, and more. Make sure you work with your doctor to figure out what you need to wear and for how long. Everyone is different! 

    After you have fully recovered from your operation, how often you wear a mastectomy bra, if at all, is totally up to you! Some women wear their prosthesis for special occasions and some never wear them at all. 

    "I imagine for many it evolves over time," said Dr. Graff. "I say do whatever feels right to you!"

    "I imagine for many it evolves over time," said Dr. Graff. "I say do whatever feels right to you!"

    Does insurance cover a mastectomy bra?

    Insurance companies may cover or give you a discount on the purchase of your post-surgery bras and mastectomy bras. Be sure to call your doctor and work to get a prescription to get coverage for medical garments or durable medical equipment. 

    With that being said, your insurance might have a preferred vendor, so be sure to discuss with your breast surgeon, medical oncologist, or plastic surgeon about regional places that offer bra fittings and post-mastectomy garments. According to Dr. Graff, they likely have a list of places and will also be able to provide you with a prescription if necessary.

    Insurance companies are required to cover your L8000 mastectomy bra AFTER your surgery; however, each insurance provider has different requirements to complete your reimbursement. It is always best to call your provider to understand your coverage, submission, and needs. 

    We at AnaOno are happy to assist you with the itemized receipt required to submit your claim for reimbursement. Please email us atcs@anaono.com for assistance. Our insurance expert, Kishanna, will be happy to assist you. 

    "I hope each person can move beyond mastectomy with confidence in a way that is right for them," said Dr. Graff. "We each deserve to be defined by our dreams and actions, our accomplishments and vision; cancer and cancer surgery should not stand in the way."

    Additional Resources

    Having a mastectomy can be confusing and overwhelming. If you need more resources about a single or double mastectomy, check out the articles below with helpful advice about managing your drains, what to expect after your surgery, and more.  

    Post-Mastectomy Pain Control: Advice from Angelina Jolie's Breast Surgeon by Kristi Funk forEveryday Health
    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.