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1. Which style of breast prosthesis should I choose?
2. What shapes do breast prostheses come in?
3. What weights do breast prostheses come in?
4. What are breast prostheses made of?
5. Can I get a breast prosthesis to match my skin tone?
6. Do breast prostheses come with backings or covers?
7. Should I get a special prosthesis for swimming?
8. Can I buy prosthetic nipples?
Prostheses come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and skin tones and are made from materials that are designed to move, feel and weigh as similar to a natural breast as possible. It’s important to choose a prosthesis that suits your lifestyle as much as possible. You may want to consider the different clothing styles you want to wear your prosthesis with.
Sometimes people choose to just wear their temporary prosthesis (softie) instead of a permanent prosthesis.
This prosthesis has various backings designed to go straight against the chest wall where all breast tissue has been removed. It’s matched in size, shape and skin tone to your other breast. If you’ve had both breasts removed you can select the size you feel most comfortable with.
A partial prosthesis is for women who have had part of their breast removed. It’s worn inside a bra and is shaped to fill out the breast outline. It’s made of the same silicone material as most full prostheses.
This is a type of partial prosthesis that may be used if your breasts are different in size from each other. It’s a soft ‘shell’ of silicone that fits over your smaller breast so that it matches the larger one. This type of prosthesis can also be useful for women who have had breast reconstruction surgery where symmetry has not been achieved, or if an implant is in the process of being expanded.
A stick-on prosthesis (full or partial) sticks directly onto the skin. These can suit women who are active or who want to wear a less supportive bra, as not all of the weight is taken by the bra. They can also be worn with strapless dresses and tops if the clothing is supportive enough.
Most women will be advised not to wear a stick-on prosthesis for 12 months after surgery or during (and sometimes after) radiotherapy as it may damage the skin. Most have a sticky surface as part of the prosthesis itself. They can be worn either by attaching it directly to the chest wall or as a regular prosthesis with a protective backing over the stick-on part.
Breast prostheses come in symmetrical, teardrop or asymmetrical shape.
A symmetrical form is usually an oval or triangular shape that can be worn on either the left or right side.
The teardrop shape is often more suitable for women whose breasts are fuller in the lower and outer area and less full above the nipple. These can also be worn on either the right or left side.
These are generally more suitable for women who have had more extensive surgery as they have extensions to fit under the arm or upper chest wall. However, they can also be used by women who have not had extensive surgery. They are specifically designed for either the left or right side.
This technique uses a 3D scanner to produce a computerised 3D image of the chest area, which can then be used to create a customised prosthesis shape. It is made to give a good match to the chest wall, which stops the prostheses moving, and is matched to your skin tone.
Silicone prostheses come in different weights. The most suitable weight will depend on how heavy your other breast is, or if you have had both breasts removed you can choose the weight you feel most comfortable with.
A full-weight prosthesis may make you feel more balanced as it matches the weight of your other breast. However, if you need a large size, a lighter-weight version might be more comfortable.
If a breast prosthesis is too light it can move around or ride up so it’s not level with the other breast. If this happens discuss it with the person who fitted your prosthesis as you may need to be reassessed, or get advice about wearing a different type of bra.
Most prostheses are made from silicone, which is a soft gel-like substance.
Foam prostheses are also available. A foam prosthesis is lighter and cooler. It may be more suitable if you’re particularly active or you may find this style more comfortable in warmer weather. Some prostheses are filled with polypropylene beads. These mould into the shape of the bra and, as air is able to circulate, they are also cooler.
Although it might be difficult to achieve an exact match, many prostheses are available in colours to suit your skin tone. Having a prosthesis that is as close to your skin tone as possible may help you feel more comfortable and confident.
Some companies make prostheses to order or can add colour to existing products. These specially made prostheses may take longer to supply.
Some women make or buy a cover for their prosthesis that is an even closer match to their own skin.
Talk to your breast care nurse or fitter about finding a prosthesis that works with your skin tone.
The backing of most prostheses is made of the same material as the front. Some may have a different backing, such as fabric or a soft panel of gel, designed to make them more comfortable. Backings that can be moulded to fit an uneven chest wall are also available. Some prostheses have backings that allow more air flow and may be cooler.
It’s possible to get a soft fabric cover to cover the silicone surface, although the prosthesis may not sit as well. This can prevent a rash or skin reaction developing, which might happen if you get hot and sweat behind your prosthesis. You could also use a bra pocket to prevent this. If you get a skin rash under the prosthesis, you should talk to your breast care nurse or GP.
Swim prostheses are made especially for use when swimming and don’t get damaged by salt water or chlorine. Some swim prostheses are clear.
In Wales, you can have additional swim prostheses on the NHS. However, this does not apply in the rest of the UK.
Some people do not wear a specific swim prosthesis. See clothing and swimwear for more information.
Prosthetic (or ‘artificial’) nipples are made of soft silicone that can be worn on a reconstructed breast or prosthesis. They are either self-sticking or come with special skin glue that can hold the prosthetic nipple in place for several days.
Prosthetic nipples come in different sizes and skin colours but some hospitals custom-make them so they match the nipple on your other breast.
Alternatively, you might find it easier to use a nipple shield (or ‘cover’) on the other nipple so it looks less obvious. You can buy these from specialist suppliers and some high-street shops. See our list of bra and prostheses suppliers.