Shopping for bras is at the top of my list titled “Things I Hate To Buy.” At a younger age, I dreaded searching for a well-fitting bra. They were too tight, too loose, too small of a cup or too big. The underwire wouldn’t fit in the right place – poking into my side or smashing into the breast. I had a hard time “winning” the bra fight. When I found one I liked, I would purchase a second or third to keep on hand.
Once I had my bi-lateral mastectomy, I lived in my sports bras. In fact, I barely went without one even when I slept. The expanders I had were hard and heavy. Going without a bra was extremely uncomfortable.
When I had the implant replacements, I was told not to wear an underwire bra. Hearing that seemed like the end of the world. I rarely found a wireless bra that was able to fit me just right, support the girls, and be cute at the same time. Locating wireless bras in my community seemed like finding a needle in the haystack. We just lacked the demand. I often searched high and low when we traveled, finding it hard to locate bras I liked. I felt those sports bras I’ve been wearing for a while would probably be in my future for the long haul. (Sigh.) I eventually found a couple bras that worked. What did I do? I bought two of each.
Whether you are a breast cancer patient, newly out of treatment, or a long time survivor, we all know there are needs that need to be met when it comes to a bra.
- Obtaining the right size. Statistically, most women are wearing the wrong size of bra. Maybe they’ve been using the same size for the last twenty years. Maybe they just don’t know how to fit a bra properly. The first recommendation would be to get professionally sized. Walk yourself into that bra store with head held high and ask for assistance. If you’re shy about your newly changed breasts, don’t be. These bra fitters have seen it all.
- Wide comfortable straps. As someone who has had breast cancer, a mastectomy, and lymph nodes removed, finding a bra that has wide straps, or straps that do not dig into your shoulders, is imperative to help reduce the risk of Lymphodema. The same can be said for the tightness of the band around your rib cage.
- Does it support the girls? Supporting the breast is an important aspect of bra fitting. Without proper support your implants may move slightly, especially immediately after surgery. Just like natural breasts, exercising may become uncomfortable if they don’t have the support needed.
- Does cup size matter? Of course! A natural breast is more forgiving when filling it into a bra cup. However, your implant will not be. Finding a cup size that fits just right not only supports your breasts, but will keep your implants in place.
- Pockets to house your breast forms. Many women who have a breast mastectomy may choose to not undergo reconstructive surgery. In those cases, some women will look for breast forms (prosthesis), which can come in many shapes, sizes, and weights to accommodate the look of natural breasts. Finding a bra that has pockets that fit your breast forms perfectly is imperative, otherwise, your breast form can rise up and move around.
- Soft fabrics and seams. Women who have had a lumpectomy or mastectomy should pay attention to the material of their bra. If you are like me, you can’t feel much around the breast and your scars. However, if there is a seam that pokes out or fabric that is scratchy, you can open your scars without knowing it.
- Underwire versus Wireless. This topic is inconsistent across plastic surgeons. One surgeon may suggest wearing an underwire bra for the added support while the next surgeon will suggest not wearing one. Your best bet is to talk to your surgeon to see what is recommended. Different surgery techniques, implants, and surgery incisions may require a different outcome.
- Comfort, comfort, comfort. Finding a bra that’s right for you should always include your comfort. If you find yourself trying on a bra that just doesn’t feel right, then it’s definitely not for you.
Angela Banker is a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister; she is also a young survivor, a caregiver, a supporter, and a fighter. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33, and found herself empowered to share her story to raise awareness about breast cancer. Angela participates in Relay For Life, started the Sisters Beating Breast Cancer page to inspire others, and continues to "fight like a girl" with the hope that her daughter will never have to hear the dreaded words, "You have cancer."