If you decide to delay reconstructive surgery, or not have it at all, then you might want to look at how you can create the appearance of a natural breast by using a prosthesis (for mastectomy) or breast form (for lumpectomy).
After surgery and before discharge from hospital, your breast nurse will talk to you about whether wearing a prosthesis may be appropriate for you. If you decide it is, she will provide you with a temporary soft prosthesis which can be used while the surgical area is healing. After healing (most likely five to six weeks post op), you may wish to obtain a permanent breast prosthesis.
What is a breast prosthesis?
A permanent breast prosthesis is a mould made of silicone-based material and it resembles the shape and weight of a breast. The prosthesis fits into a special bra.
Wearing a prosthesis can help with balance and posture and make you feel more confident about your appearance.
Before leaving hospital, your breast nurse will show you a permanent breast prosthesis and a mastectomy bra and provide information on wearing a prosthesis. She will advise how long you can wear the soft temporary prosthesis before a permanent one is recommended.
Many breast prostheses can be worn in water (salt or chlorinated) and most suppliers offer a range of special swimwear or can modify swimsuits to accommodate them. Today’s prostheses are well made, expertly fitted, comfortable to wear and very natural-looking.
Your first fitting
Fitting women with a breast prosthesis and bras requires special training. The suppliers of these products in New Zealand offer a wide range and their specialist fitters are capable, experienced, careful and considerate. Your breast nurse will give you information about specialist fitters in your area and when you are ready you can call to make an appointment with the fitter of your choice. You like to think about taking someone with you.
A specialist fitter will attend to you in a comfortable, warm, quiet and private fitting room. She will guide you through the process of being fitted; show all options available to you; explain product care; and make you feel relaxed, at ease and well informed. If appropriate, the fitter will talk to you about lymphoedema and discuss the use and fitting of a preventive compression garment.
You are entitled for a subsidy for a breast prosthesis and the fitter can fill out this paperwork for you if you prefer. If the cost of your products is over the subsidy limit then you will need to pay the balance. The fitter will give you receipts for your products and it’s a good idea to put these somewhere safe so you can keep track of your subsidy and know when you are eligible to claim again.
The Government offers a subsidy for a prosthesis and other related products (for example special bras) after surgery for breast cancer.
The current subsidy is $613.33 per side, rolling over every four years as long as you have not had breast reconstruction. The subsidy is administered by HealthPac and is available to New Zealand citizens or those ordinarily resident in NewZealand. It will cover the cost of the following:
- breast prosthesis or breast forms (these may include standard breast forms, swim form, foam filler, shell prosthesis and lumpectomy shells)
- special bras to hold the Breast Prosthesis or breast forms
- surgical bras and normal bras
- modifications to bras or swimwear to hold a prosthesis or breast form
- prosthetic nipples.
Click here for more information on the breast prosthesis subsidy visit. You can also call the HealthPac enquiry line on 0800 458 448.
Suppliers and Stockists
There are two main suppliers of breast prostheses and associated products in New Zealand – Anita and Naturalwear. Both Anita and Naturalwear products are available nationwide.
Medical Matters is a Wellington based company markets a German product to selected stockists and specialist fitters. Company Director Mary McAvoy herself a breast cancer survivor may be contacted on 04 566 4660 or firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and information.
Anita BreastCare is in Silverdale (north of Auckland) with independent stockists throughout the country. Call 0800 264 822 or (09) 427 5283 to make an appointment or for the stockist nearest to you (North and South Islands).
Naturalwear has shops in Auckland, Milford, Hamilton and Wellington with a stockist in Tauranga and travels throughout the North Island. For more information, call Naturalwear on 0800 612 612.
Smith and Caughey’s has been fitting women at their downtown Auckland store, 261 Queen St. for over thirty years. They feature a selection of prostheses and bras from the Amoena and Anita lines, and a wide range of other special bras and swimwear. Call for an appointment on (09) 916 0844.
Lyn's Lingerie in Lower Hutt stock a variety of breast prostheses and products. They have two fully qualified prothesis fitters. They are located at 45 Treadwell St, Naenae, Lower Hutt and can be contacted on (04) 567 1578 or email Lyns_lingerie@hotmail.com. Their website is www.lyns-lingerie.co.nz.