Breast Cancer

After Mastectomy: How to Find That Perfect Swimsuit

+ CV Skinlabs Team

If you’ve gone through a mastectomy, you may be thinking your beach days are over. Think again. You can find a suit that fits you great and gives you the confidence you need to get back out in the sun.

There’s a wide variety of mastectomy swimwear available that’s fun, fashionable, and functional. Built for breast-cancer survivors, they have pockets where prosthetic breasts can be inserted. And don’t worry-they come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, so you’ll be able to find something that looks great on you. Land’s End has its own line (reputed to be more affordable than some), as does the popular Jodee brand. Hanes has suits at great prices, while Nicola Jane and Anita offer more up-to-date styles.

How do you go about choosing the right suit? Try them on. To find the best fit, experts say the key is to find a good match between the swimsuit and the prosthetic breasts. One thing to keep in mind-silicone prostheses will easily survive the sea or the pool, but they may take on water, swell slightly and feel a little heavier. If you don’t want to deal with the drag, you can get non-silicone swim forms, which are specifically made for mastectomy swimwear. They’ll still absorb some water, but not as much as you’re everyday prostheses. These can also be pinned or sewn into a non-mastectomy swimsuit, if you have one you’re just dying to wear again. Breast-free.org says you can even make your swim form with a bath puff or shower scrubby! It’s almost weightless and drains quickly, so if you’re looking for an economical option, this may work for you. Tightly-wound puffs are reported to work best.

Next, let’s talk evenness. If you have one natural breast, you may be concerned about appearing symmetrical in the water. Here’s where a suit with adjustable straps can come in handy. “You are going to need a bit more lift on your natural side than your prosthesis,” says Vera Garofalo, manager of Hope’s Boutique at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University. Having adjustable straps gives you the option of creating more lift where you want it. For greater security, choose a suit that fits snugly over your chest.

What about the 2-piece? You may want to try the popular “tankini,” which gives you a little more coverage on top with the free-feeling of a two-piece. This one by Queen Lingerie has a tankini top and skirt-type shorts. Land’s End also has a sport tankini style, as does Penbrooke.

As for scars, don’t worry-mastectomy suits typically offer more material around the chest area, so you’ll be covered. Then again, you may want to wear your scar with pride. “It takes awhile to get used to the fact that your body looks different,” says Mary McCabe, RN, director of the Cancer Survivorship program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “I remember seeing a woman one summer who was wearing a very low-cut top, and I could see the top end of her surgical scar. I was so excited to see someone else who had a scar!”

So, are you getting excited about summer yet? Seriously, you’ve survived breast cancer and you probably feel happy to be alive-a swimsuit may be just what you need to feel happy to be a woman.

(A few more stores: Make Me Heal, mastectomy.com, the American Cancer Society’s TLC, Heidi’s Mastectomy Swimwear, and the Lady Jane Boutique. To find them in your area, check your phone book for mastectomy boutiques.)

Have any suggestions for looking great at the beach after breast-cancer surgery? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Snap Village.

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