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Life after breast cancer surgery

Offering women comfort and familiarity via our bra and prosthesis service

Oonagh Mead, Breast Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at London Breast Institute, part of The Princess Grace Hospital, talks to us about the bra and prosthesis service that she helped set up at the institute, and how wonderful it is that she is able to see her patients all the way through their journey with us – from their diagnosis and treatment all the way through to their fitting.
Breast cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the past 40 years in the UK due to a combination of improvements in treatment and care and earlier detection through screening. But it’s important to remember that each one of these women (and men) are living with the impact of cancer treatment. For many, this means coping with the loss of one or both breasts from a mastectomy. At our clinic at London Breast Institute (LBI), we’re able to offer those women an entirely bespoke bra and prosthesis service at the same place where they had their procedure – somewhere familiar to them.

This bra and prosthesis service was set up just over a year ago to offer an alternative to a patient visiting an external prosthesis shop. Initially, the service was supported by Amoena – who produce the bras and prosthesis but were also fitting our women. However, with specialist training, our three breast care Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) now run the service - usually on the last Friday of every month.

During the 30-minute consultation, measurements and fitting of a post-surgical bra and prosthesis will take place, and options for teats (nipples) can also be discussed. We can also provide specialist advice on lifestyle changes and prosthesis for swimwear, headscarves, leisure styles and other accessories.
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The service we run has had a really positive impact on patients. After having a single mastectomy, one of our ladies was really struggling with having one M cup breast and came to us looking for a prosthesis. After measuring the lady, I, with the help of a talented seamstress, ensured that she was fitted perfectly. It gives the ladies so much confidence when they’re fitted the right way, they leave with a definite spring in their step!
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Understanding the benefits of having this service in-house

Losing a breast is such a private moment for a woman, but I’ve found that women find it incredibly reassuring to have their fitting with someone who has been through the entire journey with them. As breast care nurses, we understand the intricacies of the treatment they’ve had and the issues they’ve faced. That means that when it comes to undressing for a fitting, we’re familiar to them, which is often incredibly comforting. They are also more likely to be honest with the fitting and more open to sharing concerns and fears, which is so important.
Logistically, it also makes sense seeing someone for a fitting in-house – especially during these unprecedented times, as not only can we fit a fitting in around other follow-up hospital consultations, but it means patients can remain in the safe bubble that the hospital provides.
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It's important that we continue to innovate too. Our partner Amoena is in the process of building a 3D machine which can create a prosthesis which perfectly matches breast for breast for our single mastectomy patients, and can provide patients with their preferred size and shape where a double mastectomy has been performed.
 
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If you have recently undergone breast cancer surgery and would like to seek the help and expertise of our fitters, you can access our service in two ways:

Through your private medical insurance – most insurance companies will authorise an initial fitting. Please speak directly with your insurer to understand the inclusions in your policy.

By choosing to self-pay for the service – book your appointment by emailing breastcarenurses.princessgrace@hcahealthcare.co.uk or by calling 020 7908 2101.
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