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A mastectomy is a procedure that involves the complete removal of one or both breasts. It is usually done when there is breast cancer present, and the purpose is to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Often the lymph glands near the breast are also removed, especially if they are found to have cancer cells in them. Special mastectomy clothes are made for women that contain pockets for holding breast forms, to give the appearance of breasts and to fit comfortably after surgery.
After a mastectomy, a woman’s body is significantly altered. Many women are very self-conscious about the loss of one or both breasts, and mastectomy clothing helps them to feel more confident about appearing in public. A man who has had a breast removed will also be changed, but this is much less common and the change is not nearly as drastic as that of a woman. As a result, mastectomy clothes for men are rarely available commercially.
Undergarments, such as bras and camisoles, are commonly available. These can be worn under regular clothing, permitting women to wear regular clothing. Mastectomy clothes themselves come in many different styles, allowing women a great deal of freedom when choosing among them.
Some mastectomy bras include a built-in breast form, but most have pockets that the forms can be placed in. This allows a woman to choose a form that best resembles her natural look. Pockets also allow women who have had a mastectomy involving either breast to use the same model of bra, as well as women who have lost both breasts.
In addition to undergarments, swimming suits and sleepwear are also popular types of mastectomy clothing. These garments have built in pockets for the breast form, and a woman can transfer the form from her bra to her swimsuit or nightwear when she changes clothes. Bra-like support is built into these garments, so that women who have only had a mastectomy on one side will maintain a symmetrical appearance.
Many other types of mastectomy clothes are available, including T-shirts, tank tops, dresses and blouses. Various specialty shops carry mastectomy clothing, and these can be found in most larger towns and online. The American Cancer Society can provide help with finding mastectomy clothes. Those looking for mastectomy clothing may also contact locally based cancer support groups for store locations and recommendations.
When my mom had a mastectomy, she carried a pillow under her arm on the surgery side for about two weeks. A lady from a breast cancer support group said that really helped.
If the woman opts not to have reconstructive surgery, then she will initially need very loose-fitting clothing that doesn't rub against the incision site. Some nightgowns and similar garments have a slit in the side to accommodate a drain, if the woman comes home with a drain or other post-op surgery apparatus.
It's really important for a woman recovering from a mastectomy to feel she isn't "less of a woman," and mastectomy clothes do help with this process. I've mostly seen mastectomy underwear and swimwear. I don't think I've seen too many other outer garments specifically meant for mastectomy patients.
For the most part, when a woman has a good mastectomy bra, she can then wear nearly anything else, since the breast form takes care of filling out both sides of a top. Mastectomy swimsuits usually have higher sides and a built in bra with a pocket for a form, or have one side built up.
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