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Topic: Breast prosthesis & airport security

Forum: Living Without Reconstruction After a Mastectomy — Discuss prostheses, swimsuits, bras, and other options for women not having reconstruction or waiting for reconstruction.

Posted on: Jul 11, 2011 02:36PM

15yrscounting wrote:

We've traveled a bit in the past 15 yrs. My husband usually sets off the metal detectors due to knee surgery and I always care for the luggage, etc going through the screening.  I always wear slip on type shoes, etc. to avoid delays.

This was our first full body scan.  I had nothing in my pockets and no metal on my person so was surprise that I was singled out for a full body scan due to my prosthesis.  I opted for a private screening but I was concerned about my personal items.  I was not allowed to touch anything and everything was left on the belt.  My items were not tagged and not easily identified by my husband as in the past I took care of everything.  The screening process took several minutes.  It was not just a pat down but had to wait to be sure the test paper passed as well.

I think it's important to spread the word to everyone to be prepared when traveling. In the future I will remove my prosthesis to make the process easier, I don't care to be singled out again.  

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Jul 11, 2011 05:06PM otter wrote:

15yrs:  I'm not sure it will protect you against being singled out, if you don't wear your prosthesis -- but I'm considering that strategy if I ever have to fly on a commercial airliner again.  So far I've managed to keep my no-fly boycott going.  I'm not just "opting out" of the whole-body scanners; I'm opting out of commercial flights, for as long as possible.

There is a thread on these Boards that's very relevant to your concerns.  If you go back to the top of this page, you'll see a link to the "Forum Index."  Click on that link, and it will bring up a list of all the forums on these Boards.  Part-way down the list, in the section named "Tests, Treatments & Side Effects," is a forum called, "Breast Prostheses and Reconstruction Alternatives."

In that forum is a thread (a topic) by the name of "Outraged by TSA."  The topic was started last November (2010), shortly after the TSA introduced its "enhanced screening" techniques.  Even if you aren't "outraged" at what the TSA is doing, please post your experience on that thread.  It will help others who are concerned about the same issues.

otter

Dx 2008, IDC, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jul 11, 2011 11:00PM 15yrscounting wrote:

Thank you.  You are right of  course, I may still be singled out but the next time I can go through without a problem.  I just don't like the idea of my personal items (money & passports, etc) being left unattended.   

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Jul 12, 2011 03:53AM starzhere wrote:

Do all types of breast forms show up on the scans?  What about chemo ports?

Dx 10/31/1989, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/12 nodes, ER-/PR-
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Jul 12, 2011 11:57AM - edited Jul 12, 2011 11:58AM by otter

Those are great questions, starz. 

It's my understanding that the scanners are designed to bounce the energy (X-ray or millimeter waves) off the skin and produce a "nude"-like image on the viewer's screen.  The point of that is to allow the screeners to see through fabric and spot anything that isn't supposed to be there = an "anomaly".  Stuff in someone's pockets -- even a kleenex or a boarding pass -- would appear on the screen as an anomaly; that's why the screeners insist on travelers emptying out their pockets.

I would think any breast prosthesis would appear as an anomaly, because none of them is real tissue or is attached to the body.  (Having said that, I wonder what the "contact" forms would look like with a whole-body scan...)  I've read that the whole-body scanners even allow the TSA screeners to see prominent scars (e.g., a mastectomy scar) and to see things attached to the body (e.g., a menstrual pad) as long as the thing is attached in certain locations.  Apparently, some places are not bombarded very effectively by the rays, so stuff that's attached there might not be detected.

And then there's that whole new issue of things concealed inside the body via surgery (re:  news reports that came out last week).  I'll bet prostheses and even breast implants are going to get closer scrutiny.  Doesn't a TE have an injection port on it?

otter

[Edited to add:  Sorry.  The O.P. was concerned about security of carry-on bags during the screening process.  That's been one of my concerns, too; but I haven't figured out what to do about it except to pitch a fit, and then I'd probably be arrested.]

Dx 2008, IDC, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Aug 1, 2011 06:52PM scoutmm56 wrote:

Ditto..just when you thought the "cattle call" we call flying couldn't get worse...I too , because of the new scanning equipment got patted down and hands swabbed because I was wearing a prosthesis...tsa agent said yeah that was probably what made them question your scan...I deal with the indignity everyday and annoyance of being lopsided...I didn't need my face rubbed in it in public ..I too was also nervous about my bins of personal possessions which contained my wallet which were far away from me and had multiple persons walking by who could have lifted it...i too will be taking my prosthesis off the next time I go through airport security...I'd love to reach down my shirt pull it out and through it in the bin...but I know I would really get patted down then....

Dx 2/16/2012, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IV, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Aug 1, 2011 06:59PM starbeauty wrote:

Scout mom... That is what I was thinking... If we toss a kleenex in the bin... Why not the foob?

Dx 12/16/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 3/23 nodes, ER+, HER2-
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Aug 1, 2011 07:10PM - edited Aug 1, 2011 07:11PM by shells43

I think you were unlucky. I have flown twice in the last 6 months, Dallas (DFW) Reagan (Wash DC) where you would think the security is higher, both times I went through the full body scanner without a problem. Once I had on my silicone prosthesis and once my microbead form. I had the other one in my carryon bag (I switched as a teswt) and it was not searched or anything. I flew out of Orlando both times. On the way back Reagan had scanners and Dallas did too, but in Dallas I went through the metal detector and not the scanner.

I'm sure they have some system like pulling every 5th person or something to stay busy. I'm not convinced it's the prosthesis yet. TSA is 0 for 2 if that is the case. Good thing it wasn't an explode-a-boob!

Rt. Mx 3/11/10 no recon. FECx3-Tx3. 28 Rads. Finished 10/26/10. Arimidex. On with life. Dx 3/8/2010, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 0/8 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 3/10/2010 Mastectomy: Right
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Aug 3, 2011 10:40PM doingbetter wrote:

I'm not sure why, if people are concerned about prostheses setting off the scanner, they just don't opt out.  Not that the pat down is pleasant, but it certainly beats the scanner + explanations + pat down ultimately in most cases anyway.  Personally we have cut down significantly on air travel because of these ridiculous procedures, but when we have to fly and are faced with the scanner just "opt out."  I don't believe for one minute that these machines are "safe" and no one in my family will subject themselves to them.  I have been able to keep my private matters private and the prostheses have never been an issue going through a metal detector and getting patted down.  As I said, I would never go through a scanner because of safety concerns, but feel that if I did with a prosthesis I would just be crying out for the extra attention since they can cearly see this anomaly on their screens.

Dx 6/2010, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Aug 6, 2011 08:37AM Starak wrote:

I am 15 mos post BL MX - no reconstruction & no prosthesis.  In my case I have large corners sitting on each side of the breast bone.  From searching around on the internet, I think they are some form of what people call dog ears.  I opted not to go to my niece's wedding because I could see that these things that stand up off the very center of my chest would look very odd on the scanner, would feel very odd on pat-down and would progress to a strip search or being arrested because they would think I have a bomb strapped to my chest.   I had hoped to be flat, not incur the risk of further surgery, and be able to go without a bra but these things make me have to strap down my chest every day or they show through, not to mention exacerbating the ongoing fallout from severe nerve damage.  Worse yet they are too close together to allow any kind of center seam so a prosthesis, even if I wanted one, is not even an option.  I see a PS later this month.  Does anyone with this type of anomaly from the mx surgery have any experience with the TSA?

Freed 'em when they tried to kill me. BMX, no recon, center dog ears removed, currently living flat but still tending an extensive foob and mx bra experimental farm in the back of the closet.
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Aug 21, 2011 06:40PM DocBabs wrote:

I recently went to Houston out of Newark NJ.I have bilateral total hip replacements and a total shoulder replacement and at the tiem i had bilateral TEs. I normall set off alarms so it's no big deal fro me. However coming back from Houston everyone was made to go through the scanner. I can only imagine what they thought when they saw my scan!!

DocBabs Dx 4/28/2011, IDC, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 5/13/2011 Lymph node removal: Right; Mastectomy: Left; Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery 5/13/2011 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left, Right Hormonal Therapy 7/15/2011 Aromasin (exemestane)
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Aug 21, 2011 08:02PM Erica wrote:

Hi Starak,

I hope you have a good appointment with the plastic surgeon. I'm assuming you'll be seeing him/her about removal of the dog ears. Such "revision" surgery is common and usually a minor procedure. So what you're describing is fixable!

I'm so sorry you felt you couldn't go to your niece's wedding. The TSA is usually pretty respectful and you could opt out of the scanner and just have a pat-down. I've had several such pat-downs and they're usually very gentle (with my chest area). I don't think it would be too much of a problem.

Barbara

BreastFree.org

BreastFree.org (breastfree.org); BreastFree Blog (breastfree.blogspot.com); Twitter @BreastFree
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Aug 22, 2011 03:27PM Tina337 wrote:

The week before last, I flew out of Phila, and for the first time we were in the line for the scanner. My husband and I both opt out but stay in public area. So, husband goes first, and they make sure to take his luggage that's been screened off to the side within his vision. I am told to wait, and I think that was so they could put my luggage aside after it was screened. I asked the TSA person standing with me about my luggage, and was told the person who would be scanning me was getting it right then and taking over to where I would be patted down. She then tells me to go over to the spot where I would be screened. The woman was very nice and described exactly what she was going to do. I then told her that I had had a bilateral mastectomy but was not wearing prosthetics. I also mentioned I had lymphedema on the side of my chest which was sensitive. The whole process was quite respectful and uneventful, and even though she had said what she would do, she said it again each step of the way before she did it. When she got to my chest she said to let her know it I was experiencing discomfort, and I repeated to just be a little careful on the side. As far as my feelings about being patted down and the TSA person able to feel lumps and bumps, I just don't care about that. I have worked so hard to get to a point where I am comfortable with my body, and if I can deal with it, then so can some stranger. I have had a few plastic surgeon exams that made me feel more uncomfortable than this process.

Since I had surgery in April to undo my reconstruction and take out my implants, my chest is not smooth and flat. I wear a compression tank to keep my truncal lymphedema in check, so I had that on for the flight. I usually insert "swell spots" on the sides of my chest for extra compression, but I waited until after going through security to put those on as well as both of my compression sleeves and gloves. This always requires that I arrive at the airport at least two hours before my flight so I can go through security and then have time to don my swell spots, sleeves and gloves and have them on an hour before takeoff. I could get annoyed by this, but I find going early and preparing this way eliminates this part of the stress of flying. I know this is a personal thing, but I am more freaked out about a potential LE flare that flying could cause than the security aspect of things. (This isn't to say I approve of these security changes.) I find once I am "suited up" that this tends to take me emotionally to a different place - reminded of my BC, LE, the feelings of sadness that things are no longer simple and how much my life has changed, the awareness that people can and do notice my sleeves and gloves. Since my deconstruction, I am now wearing sleeves and gloves on both arms, so this makes me a little more self conscious, as does being flat chested. There's also an element of claustrophobia I experience wearing all this armor, not to mentioned getting a little overheated, so flying is no longer a part of the vacation I welcome. In fact, it is a little trauma and anxiety producing. However, when compared to sitting in a car for many hours, which for me usually causes a LE flare, I'll take flying any day!

"Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself." ~ George Bernard Shaw Dx 11/13/2007, DCIS, <1cm, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Aug 22, 2011 11:01PM Starak wrote:

Erica, I did have a good appt. with the PS. They will submit to the insurance for approval.  The decision will probably take 6 wks. Thank you for your kind words.

Tina337:  I am feeling like a big wuss after hearing all that you have and are enduring.  Thank you for sharing your experience as it does make me feel better that if there is an emergency that requires that I get on a plane that it should be okay.  My girls and I send you our wishes and prayers that the LE will subside and allow you some comfort and peace.

Freed 'em when they tried to kill me. BMX, no recon, center dog ears removed, currently living flat but still tending an extensive foob and mx bra experimental farm in the back of the closet.
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Aug 23, 2011 02:25AM Tina337 wrote:

Starak, you are not a wuss! We all have our own stories and have to adapt to life after BC. I'm glad that my sharing was reassuring. Thank you for your good wishes and prayers!

"Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself." ~ George Bernard Shaw Dx 11/13/2007, DCIS, <1cm, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Aug 24, 2011 10:41AM mthomp2020 wrote:

Last week, I flew for the first time since 9/11.  As a matter of fact, I was on vacation on 9/11.  We flew out of Miami International, which is usually very, very busy.  It was almost deserted when we flew back - it was very strange. 

Of course, I had to go through the scanner both coming and going, and got to be patted down - whoopee!  It really wasn't bad, though.  My husband actually got a more thorough frisking then I did coming back.  We were flying out of Seattle to Cincinnati.  They apologized afterwards, and said they actually patted him down by mistake - it was the guy before him they were supposed to frisk!  He flies out every week for his job, and has been doing that for years now.  I think that's the first time he ever really got patted down.  Seattle seemed to be extremely busy - it was really pretty chaotic.  I think it's the most hectic airport I've every flown out of. 

Marsha Dx 5/21/2007, IDC, Stage IV, Grade 3, mets, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Aug 24, 2011 09:01PM NannaBaby wrote:

How did they know you were wearing a prosthesis? I went to Cuba a few weeks ago, and I didn't feel the need to say anything and I was fine thru security check.

NannyBaby, dx May 2010 at age 28. Neo-Chemo AC+Taxotere, surgery uMx, 25 Tomo rads, more chemo Cisplatin+Vinorelbine. Dx 5/28/2010, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIIB, Grade 3, ER-/PR-, HER2- Chemotherapy 6/3/2010 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 12/13/2010 Lymph node removal: Left, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 2/19/2011 3DCRT: Breast, Lymph nodes Chemotherapy 3/31/2011 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Navelbine (vinorelbine) Surgery 7/12/2012 Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap
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Oct 12, 2011 12:56PM - edited Oct 12, 2011 01:10PM by oman

I have a right breast prosthesis for the last 10 yrs....I have never been singled out for my prosthesis....but I always get nightmares before a trip.  My husband and I travel 2 to 3 times every yr at least and he is the one who is always gets a pat- down.  he has no implants anywhere in his body!  we are flying this weekend and to spare myself of a possible surprise,  i will take it off and throw  it into my carry on.  if they need to see it, then they can take it out, hopefully they do not trash it.

I'll probably opt out as Doing Better suggested.  I was always go through the metal detector and I never had any pat-downs  but then again they might suspect I'm hiding something if I opt out!!! this is getting ridiculous! 

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Oct 12, 2011 09:37PM Celtic_Spirit wrote:

I'll be flying out of San Diego International...the infamous "Don't touch my junk" airport...next Monday. I'm going to wear my prosthesis and refuse the scan, because what they'll see on there will just lead to a pat down anyway. I'll be flying back from Knoxville, TN, and they just got a new scanner, and I'm sure they'll be wanting to try it out on everyone. Again, I plan to insist on a pat down in a private area with a female TSA agent. I'll post my experience on the "Outraged by TSA" thread. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Dx 2/8/2008, IDC, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 9/30 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Oct 12, 2011 09:39PM otter wrote:

Good luck, Celtic_Spirit!  Here's hoping they're really busy and you end up being directed through the old-fashioned metal detector, with no adverse consequences.  ;)

otter

Dx 2008, IDC, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Oct 12, 2011 10:23PM Celtic_Spirit wrote:

Thanks, Otter! I hope it goes down just as you described!

Dx 2/8/2008, IDC, Stage IIIA, Grade 3, 9/30 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Oct 13, 2011 11:14AM mthomp2020 wrote:

I fly out of the Cincinnati airport, and everyone goes through the scanner there, so I do get a pat-down.  If you opted out, you'd get a full-body pat-down.  If you go through the scanner, they just pat-down the area in question.  My husband was ahead of me, and he informed them I wore a prothesis.  The woman was very polite, and the pat-down wasn't bad. 

Flying out of Seattle, they use the scanner or the metal detector.  Of course, I got sent through the scanner, so I got the pat-down, but it still wasn't bad. 

Marsha Dx 5/21/2007, IDC, Stage IV, Grade 3, mets, ER-/PR-, HER2+

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