Choosing bras after breast surgery

3 minute read time.
Choosing bras after breast surgery

If you have had or are due to have breast surgery to treat breast cancer or surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer, it can be challenging to know where to start when looking for the best bra to wear after your operation. Finding the right style of bra that feels comfortable to wear is very important, writes Teresa Gonzales, our cancer information nurse. Here she looks at some crucial things to consider when choosing a bra post-surgery.

Type of bra to wear straight after surgery

In the first few weeks after surgery, you are usually advised to wear a bra that fits comfortably but is not too tight and does not have an underwire. Your surgeon or breast care nurse can advise you on the best type of bra to wear, depending on the type of surgery you have had. Whether you have had a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or breast reconstruction, it is important to choose a style that feels soft and comfortable to allow the area to heal. For example, a bra made of cotton can feel softer on the skin.

If you have had lymph nodes removed, a front fastening bra can be easier to put on as your arm movement may be slightly restricted and feel stiff.

You may have swelling after surgery, so it may help to use the loosest bra hook when fastening the bra, and as the swelling reduces, you can tighten it more.

Your surgeon or breast care nurse will let you know if you need to wear a specific surgical bra and how you can get one after your breast surgery.

Post-surgery bras after cancer

Type of bra to wear once the area has started to heal

The time it takes to heal from breast surgery can vary depending on the type of breast surgery. It’s best to avoid wearing an underwired bra for the first year, whether you have had breast reconstruction or used a prosthesis. Instead, choose a bra with a wide band underneath that goes all the way around to your back. Make sure the bra has full cups, side panels, wide adjustable straps and soft seams. Breast Cancer Now has information about bras after surgery for breast cancer.

As the area begins to heal, you may experience some changes. This may result from other treatments you have for breast cancer or if your weight changes. This can mean you need to change the type or size of your bra.

Where can I get a bra to wear after breast surgery?

You should be able to find a suitable bra in many of the high-street shops. Some shops have people who can help measure you for a bra to make sure you’re wearing the correct size. They will often have training and experience in helping people who have had breast surgery or are going to have breast surgery.

You may want to purchase supportive or mastectomy bras from specialist suppliers of bras for when you have had breast surgery.

Cancer Research UK also has a selection of mastectomy and post-surgery bras.

For women who may need a range of bras in different skin tones, an organisation called Nubian Skin will soon have a selection of breast softie inserts for mastectomy bras in different colour tones. Please sign up here to be notified when they become available.

You can also find a selection of bras to wear after breast surgery from The Bra Sisters, two cancer thrivers on a mission to transform post-mastectomy bra fitting.

Help with paying for bras after breast surgery

You usually have to pay for bras post-breast surgery. But there are ways to get help buying bras after breast surgery if you are on a low income or receiving social security benefits.

  • I am a 36/38G cup.  I'm a size 16 frame 5'6" tall to give other ladies idea.  My surgery was to top outer left quadrant of left breast.  Non wired bras just offered zero support.  I was told by my BCN that gently padded, not too tight underwired mounded bra would be fine as no support would resukt in dragging down on scar.  Told to wear at night too for 4 weeks then switch to step into stretch bra at night to continue healing.   She also said a bra extender, often a couple of pounds on eBay great to give existing bras more room. 

    Radiotherapy.- no underwires.  Main option was sports bra but I struggle to get a fit that offered support without being tight so looked at mastectomy bras.  Found some in Debenhams which were slightly moulded, cotton lined.  I had to go up a back size and down a cup size or two,  They didn't give a good shape under jersey tops but they were very comfortable during and after radiotherapy.  I returned to underwired full time 5 months after radiotherapy finished.  I had quite bad breakdown of skin under breast and the special dressing I was given stuck to skin and pulled it off and didn't nothing to keep skin dry.  I tried a long panty liner instead and much better.  

  • I brought a Royce 1010 bra from John Lewis. If you send them your sick note  to customer services they will refund you the VAT.

  • I'm a 34 FF/G and had a lumpectomy plus 3 lymph nodes removed a year ago.  I bought my bras from M&S without wires and they refunded the VAT.  I had 5 lots of radiotherapy 2 months later.  I hope to wear my old bras which have bones in soon but at the moment I shall wear the non wired bras.  M&S have a good range of bras for those that have had mastectomies and these are also suitable (I think) for lumpectomies especially whilst your breast/s are healing.  After radiotherapy the skin changes so it's important to keep it moisturised with E45 and wear bras which are soft but supportive.