Many women view bras as an essential part of their wardrobe, amassing lovely collections of perfectly-fitting, pretty, lacy, sexy and cute bras and or bra/panty sets. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is devastating and even after healing, reminders of this loss continue for many years to come for survivors. If you don’t opt for reconstructive surgery, there are obvious issues with lingerie. Even if you do, realizing your favorite bras no longer fit is a letdown. You likely got accustomed to placing your natural breast tissue into the underwire-supported cup of a traditional bra, but this isn’t possible with implants. Reconstructed breasts tend to be flatter, rounder, sit higher and have a degree of unevenness, which poses a lingerie challenge.
After breast cancer surgery, underwire bras can be far too painful, molded cups don’t work, and material gapes where nipples once existed. Original bra sizes may be too small and bigger sizes may not fit properly. Thousands of women lament about not being able to find a bra after a mastectomy. Even a lumpectomy can present problems because breast tissue can be ultra sensitive. As with all other breast cancer tips, women who have been there and done that are a great source for bra hacks.
Breast Cancer Bra Hacks
- Buy soft cotton sports or leisure bras, preferably front closing
- Wear cotton stretchy tank tops with soft built-in shelf bras
- Use gauze pads inside bra cups to protect lumpectomy scars
- Place fluffy old-fashioned sanitary napkins (without wings) inside bras to protect lumpectomy scars; after healing, use panty liners instead
- Look for a smooth stretchy material that glides over your breast, like a sports bra
- Find a bra that conforms to your body without leaving excess material to fold, gather, or scrunch up
- Purchase soft, seamless mastectomy bras with removable inserts so you can place breast forms into the pockets
How to Convert a Bra into a Mastectomy Bra
(Sew Your Own Mastectomy Bra!)
Chances are, you have a collection of bras that you wore prior to your mastectomy. The good news is that some of these can be transformed into a mastectomy bra for very little cost.
If you are handy with a needle and thread, you can try making your own mastectomy bra by sewing a simple pocket into a regular bra.
- Needle and thread (or sewing machine) with thread
- Fabric to create a pocket inside of the bra. You can cut up an old tee shirt or select a fabric remnant at the store.
Selecting a Bra: When choosing a bra to convert into a mastectomy bra, start with a comfortable, high cut bra in which the cups are large enough to fully cover your prosthesis. It's essential to select a bra that fits your body without gaping on the sides or at the neck. Avoid molded or formed cups because they are more likely to gap. Bras with a taller (or deeper) gusset are best (the gusset is the middle part of the bra between the two cups; with a deep gusset, less skin is exposed between each breast). Underwires are optional, but they do help to hold your prosthesis in place.
How to Create The Pockets
- Step 1: Prepare. To begin, cut out a piece of cotton fabric that is at least 1" larger than the cup on all sides.
- Step 2: Position. Center the fabric on the underside of the bra.
- Step 3: Attach. Sew all the way around the edge of the bra, leaving an opening along the seam where the cup is sewn to the back strap of the bra. (This is where your prosthesis will be inserted). If using a sewing machine, be careful not to run the needle over the underwire as this will break the needle.
- Step 4: Cut. Cut off the excess fabric all the way around the cup, about 1/8 inch from the seam. Avoid cutting the opening where the prosthesis will be inserted. This excess fabric will be left long, allowing the flap to be folded behind the prosthesis once it is in place.
With a little ingenuity and perseverance, you can find the ideal post-mastectomy bra – while it may not be as sexy or frilly as the bras you were accustomed to, after a while, you’ll find it fits the new you!
Do you have any bra tips to share? Please comment below. Have you ever tried to make your own mastectomy bra?