1. Finding the right clothing and swimwear after breast surgery
2. Wearing low necklines after breast surgery
3. Wearing backless clothing after breast surgery
4. Wearing a breast prosthesis with strapless clothing and narrow staps
5. Wearing a breast prosthesis without a bra
6. Wearing a breast prosthesis with sleepwear
7. Wearing a breast prosthesis with swimwear
8. Going without a prosthesis
9. Coping with the changes to your body

1. Finding the right clothing and swimwear after breast surgery

Many women wonder what swimwear and clothing styles to wear after breast surgery (such as a mastectomy). It’s not unusual to wonder if you’ll still look the same in your clothes, especially if you wear a breast prosthesis or have uneven breasts. 

With time, most women find that they can regain their confidence by knowing what works for them and what makes them feel more comfortable.

The following information and suggestions will be of particular use to women who wear a prosthesis. However, they may also give ideas to women who don’t wear a prosthesis.

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2. Wearing low necklines after breast surgery 

If you want to wear a low neckline but still cover part of your chest area you can try:

  • a camisole or vest top underneath a V-necked top so that it is visible across the ‘V’
  • a camisole-style bra, available from some mail order catalogues, made with lace inserted between the cups that will cover the cleavage area
  • a lightweight lacy or semi-transparent top worn over a low-necked item, to disguise the cleavage area while still allowing the clothing beneath to show through
  • using lingerie tape to attach clothing securely to the skin
  • a draped scarf

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3. Wearing backless clothing after breast surgery 

If you want to wear clothes with a low or revealing back, you can buy bra strap extensions online, from specialist suppliers or some department stores. Instead of fastening at your back, these continue round your body and fasten lower down at the front to enable you to wear clothes with low backs.

You can also buy bras with straps that can be crossed at the back, designed to not show when wearing tops with cut-away shoulders.

Alternatively, you could try going without a bra.

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4. Wearing a breast prosthesis with strapless clothes and narrow straps

Some strapless clothes and clothes with narrow straps are made of material that provides good support, or have an extra support panel in the bra area. This may be enough to hold your prosthesis in place so it looks and feels comfortable.

If there’s not enough support you could try:

  • using a safety pin to attach a softie directly inside the garment
  • wearing a strapless bra with your usual prosthesis (providing your usual prosthesis is not too heavy for a strapless bra) or with a stick-on prosthesis
  • wearing a bra with transparent or decorative straps

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5. Wearing a breast prosthesis without a bra 

If you prefer to not wear a bra at all, you could try:

  • pinning a softie into other underwear such as a vest top or camisole
  • using a stick-on prosthesis with clothing that has good in-built support
  • wearing pocketed clothing, available online and from some specialist suppliers (these clothes are usually designed to be worn with a silicone prosthesis)

You may prefer to try them out first and see what works for you.

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6. Wearing a breast prosthesis with sleepwear

If you want to wear a prosthesis in bed, you could consider:

  • a ‘sleep bra’ or very soft, low-support bra with a softie
  • pocketed nightwear, available online and from some specialist suppliers
  • a camisole or nightdress with a softie pinned in place
  • a stick-on prosthesis; this usually needs to be worn with some support, but you may find it stays in place on its own

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7. What swimwear to wear with a breast prosthesis

If you want to wear a prosthesis when swimming, you can often find suitable swimwear to wear with a prosthesis in high-street shops, including one-piece and two-piece costumes. The top needs to be cut high enough over the breast area and under the arms to cover the prosthesis. It also needs to have some structure, which is usually provided by cups. If you choose to wear a bikini top, choose one that comes in bra cup sizes, has a full cup and has a supportive underband.

You could adapt a high-street swimsuit that has cups by making your own pocket to hold a prosthesis in place. If you do this you will need to wear a lightweight prosthesis or foam leisure prosthesis as other prostheses may be too heavy.

Although you can swim in a silicone or foam leisure prosthesis it’s important to rinse it well afterwards to avoid any possible damage from the chlorine or salt water.

You can also wear a swim prosthesis that doesn’t get damaged by salt water or chlorine.

See types of breast prostheses.

Mastectomy swimwear 

You may prefer to wear pocketed mastectomy swimwear. This type of swimwear can be found in some high-street shops, large department stores or from specialist suppliers. They come in one-piece costumes, two-piece bikinis and tankinis. You can use your regular silicone prosthesis or a swim prosthesis in a mastectomy swimsuit.

You don’t need to pay VAT on mastectomy swimwear if you have had breast cancer surgery. Read more about VAT and mastectomy bras.

Made-to-measure swimwear is available from some companies. This allows you to choose the print and design for a swimsuit, tankini or bikini.

See our list of bras, clothing and swimwear suppliers.

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8. Going without a prosthesis

You may choose not to wear a prosthesis at all. Many women prefer how this looks and feels.

If you have had one of your breasts removed, you can make the two sides of your body seem more balanced by wearing dark, patterned fabrics and loose-fitting clothes.

If you want to distract the eye further, you could wear overshirts, jackets, scarves or jewellery.

If you want to disguise a small difference between your breasts without using a prosthesis, a well-fitted padded bra can provide a good shape.

If you have had both of your breasts removed your chest area will be symmetrical. Many women prefer how this looks and feels but you could also try some of the ideas above.

Flat Friends is a charity that supports women who have not had reconstruction and choose not to wear a prosthesis. 

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9. Coping with the changes to your body

Everyone has different feelings about their body and how they look after breast surgery and there is no wrong or right way to feel. It’s natural to have concerns. You may wonder how friends and family will react, or what people might say when you return to your everyday activities.

By taking simple measures you can become more confident about your body and how you look, which may affect other areas of your life in a positive way. This might include having a suitable prosthesis fitted, choosing an attractive, well-fitting bra, or making some adjustments to your clothes.

Find out more about coping with the changes to your body after breast cancer treatment and living with and beyond breast cancer.

 

» Find more hints and tips on moving forward after breast cancer in BECCA, our free app

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Last reviewed: October 2017
Next planned review begins 2020

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