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Clothing options after mastectomy


Hello all,

I am an Occupational Therapist who is interested in learning more about the clothing needs of women after mastectomy's. A few questions I am wondering, what clothing items do you need after surgery, are there specific shape wear items that are a must? Is there a certain brand of inserts that are the best? What area do you feel is lacking in the clothing world? Any information you can educate me on so that I can carry this onto my daily profession would be great!


  • ravzari
    ravzari Member Posts: 32
    edited September 2017

    It's nice to have a loose, front buttoning shirt with drain pockets on the inside after surgery. If no drain pockets, still a loose, front buttoning shirt that you can pin the drains to so they're not just swinging around loose, which hurts.

    Compression (front closing, of course) tends to help with pain and swelling as well, though not all doctors mention that to their patients. A front closing sports bra is good enough if medical compression garments aren't available.

    Having loose--but not so loose they fall off--comfortable pants that you can pull up and down without having to wiggle or mess with buttons or zippers is also nice to have for the first few weeks post-op. PJ pants, sweats, stuff like that.

    It's also helpful to have comfortable shoes that you can slip on and off without having to bend down to do it, especially for the first couple weeks when you probably have drains in and don't want to jostle them (because that kind of hurts).

    Anything that has to be pulled over the head is generally avoided for 6-8 weeks as you're not able to fully lift your arms over your head, though I was able to bend over at the waist and wiggle in and out of tank tops and loose fitting t-shirts by week 3.

    I found compression on top to be more comfortable for about 8 weeks and around 6 weeks I switched from a medical compression vest to either just a Spanx (or other brand) compression tank or a front closing sports bra. After that, I still sometimes wear the tank tops if it's hot outside, but got rid of the bra.

    For women who develop mild lymphedema in their chest, wearing a compression tank or compression t-shirt can help with it. For MOST women that clears up after a few months, but for some it's permanent, especially if they had nodes in their armpits removed.

    As for other clothes, honestly, for me there's nothing 'special'.

    I wear a lot of yoga pants, tank tops, and t-shirts, and don't care if anyone notices or sees that I'm flat because it's just plain not their business, so I've never cared to try to 'mask' the fact that I'm flat with scarves, loose tops, patterns, etc...but some women prefer to do that.

    Most people just assume you have small breasts anyway, from my experience, even if you're flat as a board.

    I don't wear bras or inserts as I just plain don't want to but I'm sure others will have better input on that, and I wear whatever I feel like wearing which is whatever clothing I had prior to my mastectomy; being flat doesn't bother me, and I find the idea of wearing a bra if I don't absolutely have to to be incredibly off putting. I'm glad I don't have to as I always found even well fitted bras to be kind of uncomfortable and would never consider wearing one again.

    When I go swimming, I usually just go topless and wear swimming trunks or shorts as there's nothing there to see on top anymore anyway so no good reason to have to cover it; if it's at a private pool or a public beach and not just around family/friends, I'll wear a one piece or short shorts and a tank top because it's not worth arguing with the general public about not really having a need to wear a top but, again, I don't care if anyone notices that I'm flat, so no swimming poofies for me.

  • sm627
    sm627 Member Posts: 142
    edited September 2017

    Hi shandi1015,

    What has worked for me has loose clothing that is made from cotton. Tank tops, camisoles and buttoned shirts are great too. Go to Target and buy some men cotton t-shirts or tank tops they work well for me and are cheap too. I am 3 months out from my single mastectomy, and I have yet to wear any kind of bra my chest area is still healing and is very sensitive. I find it nice not having to wear bras. The camisoles and tank tops I have been wearing have been great because they don't touch my skin so much and it gives everything a chances to breath and heal more.

    Good luck with helping your patients. You will find lots of helpful people here.

  • Icietla
    Icietla Member Posts: 321
    edited September 2017

    Yes, for all the time after surgery when drains are installed and carried, front-closing loose shirts or pajama tops having side patch pockets, worn inside-out; or front-closing cobbler-style aprons with patch pockets, worn inside-out; or front-closing house dresses with patch pockets, worn inside-out. Yes, pants having elasticized waistbands, so they can be pulled on or off easily by thumb use.

    With pinafores, sleeveless one-size dresses, or other dresses or tops having largish armholes, I often wear shortish, close-fitting cotton tank tops beneath, to cover my skin rolls, dog ears, and scars under my arms.

    A lot of the tank tops out there, especially ones of some other materials such as the Hanes X-Temp material -- could be good for putting some pressure on those underarm places, but for being too long. I think maybe they are made long for women having breasts. They tend to ride up (or slide up?) on one's flat chest. I think my tummy being outsier than my chest might have something to do with that. Anyway, it is not such a problem when the tops are fairly short, like waist-length.

    I no longer wear clothing with darts, nor princess seams.

    There are other breast cancer survivors with special clothing needs. Peripheral Neuropathy sufferers among us may have special clothing needs.

    These linked posts are from the discussion thread on Radiation-Induced Brachial Plexopathy (RIBP) __

  • MydogandIhadcancer
    MydogandIhadcancer Member Posts: 3
    edited June 2021

    One thing I think the clothing world lacks is post mastectomy models, models who have undergone mastectomy. One the one hand, more women’s clothing sites are employing more diverse models but who have undergone mastectomy? I don’t even see Athleta, which sells Empower pads as prosthetics, using models with mastectomy. Makes it hard for me to see if the clothing will hide scars.

  • windingshores
    windingshores Member Posts: 160
    edited October 2021

    I had a double mastectomy and just wear regular clothes, without any prostheses. The only issue I have had is with bathing suits, which are scratchy next to my scars. due to the built in bras (which I do not need) . Land's End makes a tank for those who have gone flat but it was tight. I finally found one in a store that was smooth inside, and bought two.

  • bailey5
    bailey5 Member Posts: 27
    edited December 2021

    “A fitting has wide array of products Post-surgery and beyond.

    For me, I have been unable to wear a bra due to chest/abdomen paradthesia which makes it impossible for me to judge when a bra is too tight and caused wound healing difficulties (that lasted 6 months, for me). My INLY product is “Luisa Luisa T-100 Pocketed (for prosthetics) Tank which are Cotton with just enough Lycra to not hurt chest & belly (which has “buldge” due to Tram-Flap Reconstruction.

    You must use a supplier as Luisa Luisa is a wholesaler, though they do have a website and they also BONUS offer PLUS-SIZED up to 3X! Insurance Must pay fir these supplies. The process does not require “in-person fitting” and they did require you to provide a couple “E-signatures” on a secure site a copy of your insurance card and license. This is so insurance handles their payment directly and if you’ve met your deductible for the year (not had for me as I have 4 CT scans annually) they’re 100% free including shippingThe whole process took less than 5 minutes and NAVA was instrumental in guiding the process which took few days waiting for doctors orders & insurance approval, etc. Then they drop ship & overnite the products which start to finish I had my products in one week. TIP: insurances must allow, I think 2 bras per year and tanks are equivalent to maybe 4; however CIGNA did allow my oncologist to order an amount he felt “medically necessary” and as long as he does that in writing I had enough to wear every day and wash together separately (to extend shape and life of product)!

    Hope this is helpful and I highly recommend “a Fitting Exoerience” which is based in Florida and ask for NAVA my fairy godmother in this situation as I cannot wear any other product with the comfort and medium support.
    BTW: They’re not the most flattering looking but can be layered under anything and 150% comfort is all I go for now. 12 years with this support tank. Can’t say enough. But they do have hundreds of other products to try!