What is a breast prosthesis?

A breast prosthesis (also known as a breast prosthetic or breast form) is a breast-shaped form that is worn inside a bra to replicate the natural shape of a breast. Women may choose to wear a prosthesis after a mastectomy or lumpectomy indefinitely or temporarily. A prosthesis is intended to enhance your confidence and self-image.

What types of breast prostheses are available?

Just like breasts, prostheses come in many different shapes, sizes and skin tones. They are also available in different types of materials.

Temporary breast prosthesis: This is a prosthesis that you can wear soon after your surgery. It is very soft and usually made out of light foam or fibrefill. It can be pinned inside a regular bra.

Silicone breast prosthesis: This type of prosthesis is made of silicone and designed to feel much like a natural breast. It weighs about the same as a natural breast, which helps to balance out the body and prevent back and neck pain. This type of prosthesis is often referred to as a permanent prosthesis.

Alternate breast prosthesis: There are non-silicone types of prostheses available, such as knitted prostheses and ones that are similar to a soft beanbag. Some women prefer these alternative prostheses for a variety of reasons, including comfort and cost.

Custom-made prosthesis: This prosthesis is made to fit the contours of your chest exactly and matched to your skin tone.

Partial breast prosthesis: If part of your breast has been removed by a lumpectomy, this type of prosthesis can be worn inside your bra to create a fuller appearance. It can be made of foam, fiberfill, or silicone.

How soon after surgery can I wear a breast prosthesis?

You can wear temporary breast prosthesis shortly after surgery. You must wait until your incision is fully healed and you can tolerate the pressure of the prosthesis against your mastectomy scar and surrounding area. Most women are able to wear a permanent silicone prosthesis about 4- 8 weeks after mastectomy surgery. Some alternate breast prostheses also have some weight to them and you will need to be able to tolerate the pressure.

Your surgeon will give you a prescription for a prosthesis and will advise you as to when you are ready to wear a permanent prosthesis.

Where can I get a breast prosthesis?

A temporary breast prosthesis is often available at no cost from the hospital where you are having your surgery. They may also be available for purchase at some specialty drug stores. Permanent prostheses are sold at:

  • mastectomy boutiques
  • surgical supply stores
  • lingerie stores or lingerie departments of some department stores
  • online stores

It’s important to go to a store where there is certified fitter who can fit you properly for a breast prosthesis.

How much does a breast prosthesis cost?

The cost of a breast prosthesis varies depending on the type. The average cost of a pre-made silicone breast prosthesis is about $400 while an alternate breast form may cost around $70. A custom-made prosthesis is a much more expensive option – it may cost over $5000.

You may also need to purchase a mastectomy bra that is designed with pockets to hold a breast prosthesis in place. Some bras will hold a breast prosthesis without alteration or you can have pocket sewn into a regular bra.

Many provincial health insurance programs help pay for a portion of the cost of a pre-made silicone breast prosthesis, custom-made prosthesis or mastectomy bra, when sold by a certified vendor. Private insurance companies may reimburse you for the portion of the cost that is not covered – check with your insurer.

Some communities also have “prostheses banks” which provide free permanent breast prostheses to women who cannot afford to buy one.

CBCF can help you find out what options are available to you in your area. Call us at 1-888-778-3100 or email us at support@willow.org

Links to more information

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Prostheses
DIPEx

Breast Prostheses & Reconstruction
Cancer Council Victoria

Breast Prostheses, Bras and Clothes after Surgery