What is a breast prosthesis?

A breast prosthesis or breast form is an artificial breast that is used after a surgery in which the breast has been altered or removed. Whether the loss of the breast is permanent or temporary, a breast form can be worn to simulate the natural breast and body shape. Full breasts and partial breasts, known as balance forms, can be purchased to balance the appearance depending on what type of surgical procedure was performed. These forms come in a variety of materials (usually silicone, foam or fiberfill) and they can be worn inside a bra or attached to the body with a special adhesive.

Why would I need a breast prosthesis?

Many women who have been treated for breast cancer have had a surgery that leads to an alteration in their physical appearance. Sometimes these alterations are permanent; they may be temporary if reconstruction is scheduled for a later time. The common types of surgeries include:

  • Lumpectomy — removal of a breast tumor and some of the breast
  • Modified/Simple Mastectomy — removal of the breast tissue
  • Radical Mastectomy — surgical removal of breast tissue and underlying muscle

A silicone breast prosthesis is weighted and simulates the natural breast. One of its advantages is that it helps your body be symmetrical again and remain in balance. When the body is out of balance following a surgery of this kind, other muscle-skeletal problems can develop. Back, neck and shoulder problems are common as well as a tendency for one shoulder to drop downward and inward while the other rises up. Women also often report that the bra rides up or moves around if there is no weighted breast form on one side of the bra.

What are the advantages of having a breast prosthesis?

Wearing a breast prosthesis is a personal choice. Many women want to wear one because they want to wear the same clothing that they wore prior to the surgery and they want to look symmetrical. There are other advantages to having a breast prosthesis. It can:

  • Provide warmth
  • Protect your chest and scars
  • Help balance your posture
  • Keep your bra from shifting or riding up
  • Help prevent problems with curvature of the spine, shoulder drop and muscular pain in the neck and back

What is a mastectomy bra?

Special bras are made that have pockets to hold the prosthesis. There are many attractive bras that come in varying colors (e.g., white, ivory, black, & nude/beige) that can be fitted at the time of the prosthesis. New products are always becoming available (in different shapes, weights, etc.) so it is a good idea to visit Isabella Boutique to see if there have been any advances since your last fitting.

How soon after surgery can a breast form be worn?

It is a good idea to consult your physician. It varies for each woman depending on her surgery and healing. Most women will be able to wear a prosthesis (breast form) within 6-8 weeks after surgery. Camisoles that have soft attachable prostheses can be worn immediately after surgery until the surgical site is healed.

Why doesn’t Isabella Boutique sell prostheses over the Internet?

We do not sell prostheses over the Internet because we believe these products need to be fitted by one of our ABC-Certified Fitting Specialists. Every woman’s body is different. Most women require only one prosthesis — the goal is to match the look of the other breast and to find something that is comfortable. Our expert Certified Fitting Specialists have seen hundreds of different bodies, know the products that are available, and can provide a woman with the best professional fit. Sometimes there is more than one option and it cannot be determined without trying it on. We have found that even under the best of circumstances, the fit can be difficult for some. We encourage you to visit Isabella Boutique where our Certified Fitting Specialists understand fitting. Buying a breast prosthesis is not like shopping for other items. The expertise of the person helping you can make a big difference in what you purchase and how you feel.

How are these products paid for?

You may purchase the prostheses yourself; however, it is a good idea to check with your medical insurance before hand to find out if they will cover the cost, how frequently they will replace the prosthesis, and what kind of authorizations are needed.

Many insurance companies will pay for all or part of a new prosthesis every two years and two to three bras every six months to a year. Most insurance plans will determine these things based on medical necessity, but some will have more strict guidelines. You will not know until you ask. For example, patients with Medicare will receive what is medically necessary, which for many patients is one silicone breast form (two forms for bilateral surgeries) every two years and four to six mastectomy bras annually. However, if a woman’s weight changes during this time, her existing breast may change size and this could mean that she needs a new prosthesis or bra(s) to accommodate this change.

Here at Isabella Boutique, we are happy to work with most medical insurance carriers.

Do I need a prescription?

Any items billed to insurance for reimbursement must have a prescription. A physician usually writes a prescription for a breast form, and some insurance companies require a special authorization just like they do for specialists or other medical procedures referred from a primary care physician. A typical prescription for a breast prosthesis and bras would say the following:

“Breast prosthesis for (right, left or bilateral) and (quantity) prosthetic bras for (diagnosis).”

Please note that if there has been a recent change in your body that requires a new prosthesis such as weight gain for weight loss, your physician should include this information on the prescription. Any information that supports the medical necessity of the prosthesis at this point in time will help your insurance plan to understand what you need and why. This will facilitate more rapid authorization and or payment processing by your insurance plan.

If needed, Isabella Boutique offers its customers resources regarding insurance reimbursement.

What is a compression garment?

Compression garments include socks, arm sleeves and gauntlets, thigh-high stockings and panty hose and are commonly used to help reduce swollen arms, legs and ankles. Compression garments are also use to treat lymphedema.

They work by:

  • Compressing the swollen tissues and stopping fluid from building up
  • Helping to move fluid to an area that is draining well
  • Providing support, which allows the muscles to pump fluid away more effectively
  • Applying more pressure in certain areas to encourage the fluid to drain

How is a compression garment fitted?

It is important that a compression garment be fitted by an expert in selecting, measuring and fitting such as the Certified Fitting Specialists at Isabella Boutique. Compression garments are available in different grades of pressure depending on the degree of swelling or lymphedema you are experiencing.

Compression garments come in a range of shades to match different skin tones and hypoallergenic types are available for people with sensitive skin. Some garments are available “off the shelf” and others need to be made-to-measure.

What is the proper way to put on and remove compression garments?

When you are fitted at Isabella Boutique, your Certified Fitting Specialist will demonstrate how to put on and remove the compression garment. Here are some useful suggestions:

  • Put your garment on first thing in the morning when the limb is at its smallest, but not immediately after a shower or bath as dampness can make it difficult.
  • Start by turning the stocking or sleeve inside out as far as the wrist or heel. Pull the garment over your hand or foot and ease it up a bit at a time. Make sure you do not pull it up by the top of the garment. Do not turn or roll the top over — this will restrict the blood flow and cause more swelling.
  • If you have arm lymphedema, a rubber glove on your unaffected hand may help when putting your compression garment on. Holding onto something like a doorknob or handle so that you can pull against it when pulling the sleeve up your arm can also help. Applying a little non-scented talc to your arm or leg can help to ease it on. There are also different applicator aids available to help put garments on and remove them.
  • Make sure the material is distributed evenly and there are no wrinkles or creases when your garment is on. Wearing a rubber glove on the unaffected hand can help you smooth out the garment.
  • Moisturize your skin at night, rather than in the morning, after you remove your garment because cream makes the sleeve or stocking difficult to put on.

How long should I wear my compression garment?

It is important to wear your compression garment all day, but usually it can be taken off at night when you are lying down and/or resting.

When you start wearing a compression garment for the first time, wear it for a few hours the first day. Then gradually build up the time during which you wear it each day until you can keep it on for most of the day. This way, you will gradually become used to the feeling and pressure of the garment against your skin.

If you are traveling a long distance, especially by air, make sure you wear it for the full length of the journey and for some hours afterwards.

You should have at least two garments so that you can have one in the wash while you wear the other. All of Isabella Boutiques’ garments include washing instructions. Worn every other day, they usually last between four and six months.

If your compression garment is too loose, it will not control swelling and will require re-fitting. If it is too tight, it will restrict blood flow. If you get pins and needles or pain, or your fingers or toes change color, it is too tight. Remove it and contact your physician for advice. Proper measurement and fitting by a Certified Fitting Specialist at Isabella Boutique can help prevent these problems from occurring.

There are some situations when compression garments should not be worn. You should avoid wearing one if:

  • Your arm or leg is large and irregular in shape
  • Your skin is fragile or damaged
  • Your skin is pitted, folded or leaking lymph fluid

Compression garments used incorrectly can be harmful and will not reduce swelling. The material can form tight bands across the skin and can even cause damage. If you are in doubt, consult your physician for advice.