From clothes to mastectomy bras, here’s a comprehensive guide to what to wear after a mastectomy…
Having breast removal surgery, or a mastectomy, can have a big impact on your life, both physically and emotionally. It’s normal to feel some pain and restriction following your surgery, and you may feel anxious or self-conscious about the changes to your body.
When it comes to choosing what to wear after a mastectomy, there are things you can do to help make life easier and to make you feel more comfortable and more confident. So what should you wear after a mastectomy?
A mastectomy can have a significant impact on a woman’s physical and psychological well-being. After surgery it’s important to choose clothing that’s comfortable, well-fitting and easy to put on. From choosing the right bra to accentuating your best features, your choice of clothes can also help to boost your confidence.
What do I need to think about post-surgery?
- Pain and soreness – after a mastectomy you are likely to have some scarring and nerve damage which can cause pain. You may also feel soreness in your upper body. If you have had reconstruction surgery, your breast may feel more sensitive and there may be some tenderness around your ribs.
- Lymphoedema – if lymph nodes were removed during your surgery, you could be at risk of developing lymphoedema (also known as lymphedema or lymphatic oedema). This is a swelling that can develop when your lymphatic system is not able to fully remove the fluid collecting in your arm, hand or chest. You may have drains (plastic or rubber tubes) put in to help prevent fluid from accumulating under the skin.
- Restricted movement – after surgery you may experience a more limited range of arm and upper body movement, which can make dressing more challenging.
- Reduced confidence – after a mastectomy it’s normal to feel different and it may take you a while to get used to the changes in your body.
These factors mean it’s important to choose clothing and underwear that’s comfortable, adaptable and easy to take on and off – and which helps you to feel more secure and confident with how your body looks and feels.
What clothes should I wear after surgery?
After a mastectomy you should opt for clothes that are comfortable and easy to take on and off.
Go for comfort
You are likely to experience some pain, sensitivity and restriction in your upper body. Choose loose, comfortable clothing that’s easy to put on and isn’t going to interfere with drains or scar tissue.
Roomy tops or long, flowing dresses can also help to disguise drains, while a pair of soft, comfy pyjamas or a wrap dress which buttons or ties at the front are good for those days when you just want to rest and take it easy.
“When I was on holiday I found the hot weather made my lymphoedema much worse so I used to avoid the midday sun and stayed cool wearing long, loose fitting clothes.” Shirin, member of the Live Better With community
Choose natural fabrics
Wearing breathable clothes and underwear made from natural materials will help to avoid irritating or chafing sensitive skin. The Live Better With community recommend bamboo clothing, which is perfect for those tender areas. Soft, stretchy and naturally moisture-absorbent, bamboo can also help to reduce the effect of hot flushes following cancer treatment.
What bra should I wear after a mastectomy?
Wearing the right bra can make all the difference after a mastectomy, and there are several types to choose from.
Post-surgery bras are designed to offer comfort, protect your wound and help support the healing process in the initial period following surgery. Compression bras can help to reduce swelling and prevent the build-up of fluid. A belt can also provide extra pressure, if you need it after breast reconstruction.
Recovery robes can also provide comfort and security after a mastectomy. The Recovery Brobe is a supersoft robe which includes built-in drain pockets and an integral post-surgery bra, with integrated pockets for holding a breast form or ice pack.
Mastectomy bras are generally soft, seam-free and non-wired, to avoid causing any friction or irritation, and made from breathable materials such as cotton or bamboo for extra comfort. Many mastectomy bras include a small pocket for holding in place a breast form (or prosthesis), which some women use to help restore their shape following surgery.
Bras can be fiddly to put on at the best of times, so if you have restricted arm movement choosing a front-fastening mastectomy bra will make this much easier to manage.
Nowadays there is a great range of underwear available for women who’ve had a mastectomy. Some mastectomy bras also feature extra detailing, for an added touch of glamour. Try the Amoena Lara which has satin detailing around the cups and shoulders, or the Jasmine Bra, which contains pretty lace detailing:
“After being diagnosed with cancer at 30 then having breast and axilla surgery I have continually struggled to find comfortable bras. This wire-free bra is the best solution I have found. It is very comfortable and soft, has pockets for prosthesis and it is also very pretty!” Live Better With community member
Live Better With offers a range of products to help make you feel more comfortable and in control, including including matching mastectomy bra and brief sets, as well as specially designed mastectomy swimwear, which is stylish and comfortable and has the added benefit of including pockets for breast forms.
Choosing the right breast form
If you haven’t had breast reconstruction, breast forms are available in a range of different sizes, weights, shapes and colours. They can either be attached directly to your skin (a ‘contact prosthesis’) or inserted into the pocket of a mastectomy bra.
It’s important to choose the right breast form for your needs. Some women find that a contact prosthesis feels more natural and requires less support, and also offers more flexibility when it comes to choosing clothes.
If you are normally very active or if you have lymphoedema it can help to opt for a lightweight breast form. Some women may also choose to wear a nipple prosthesis, which can be added to a breast form or worn directly on the skin.
How can I dress well after a mastectomy?
A mastectomy can have a big impact on how a woman feels about her body, and it can take time to adapt to your new post-surgery shape. Just thinking about what to wear after surgery can make many women feel anxious.
However, there’s no reason to feel that you can’t be stylish or fashionable. Remember, you are more aware of the changes to your body than anyone else, and if you feel good on the inside, it will show on the outside!
Find your style
Just because you’ve had surgery, it doesn’t mean that you have to wear baggy tops forever. It’s all about finding out what works for you.
If you’re worried about exposing your neckline, you may want to start by wearing a top or dress which doesn’t have a low neckline. However, if you do fancy wearing something a little bolder, consider combining a cami top or scarf with your chosen top or dress to provide some additional coverage.
Highlight your favourite features
You can draw attention away from the areas you are less confident with, by creating a focal point elsewhere. Try using a belt to accentuate your waist, wearing patterned trousers or a shorter skirt to draw attention to your legs, or treating yourself to a pair of statement shoes!
Striking jewellery and pretty scarves can also be an effective way of drawing attention towards a chosen feature. Try wearing a gorgeous brooch, a dramatic pair of earrings, or a short necklace or choker. Wearing make-up can also make you feel more confident, and will help draw attention to your cheeks, lips and eyes.
After a mastectomy, it’s common for women to feel a lack of control over their situation and you may be anxious about body image. However, choosing the right clothes can help to make you feel more comfortable and in control.
Do you have any tips for what to wear after a mastectomy? If so, we’d love to hear about them, as they could help other people like you. You can share your tips with the Live Better With cancer community here.