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Airport security wearing breast prosthesis

mwill
Posted by

Hi

I had a bilateral mastectomy almost 8 years ago after a diagnosis of breast cancer and BRACA Gene diagnosis.  I have just returned from a lovely holiday with my husband and 11 year old son. On going through airport security in Malaga I set the sensors off, probably with the wire of my mastectomy bra, I was promptly moved to the side and body frisked. The security lady looked horrified at feeling my prostheses, but when I tried to explain she said in broken English that I would need to accompany her to a private cubicle for her to see. She explained in Spanish where she was taking me and what for to her work colleagues and all other Spanish speaking people both male and female in a very insensitive manner.

I followed her to a cubicle where she had a  look. She still was not satisfied and asked me to remove my bra so that she could put it through the scanner, she took it from me and placed it in a tray, not even covered, in full view of an extremely busy airport. I am still so upset at how this has made me feel, words fail me. My husband and son at the time were going through security and my poor son was so upset when he seen me return to them visibly tearful. I have always shown to my children that my choice to wear prosthesis and not have surgery is perfectly fine and nothing for me or them to be ashamed of but that image of my son's face will stay with me. Even though he was so brave by saying "it doesn't matter mammy, you'll never see these people again and everyone who knows you knows that you are a beautiful person.."

I have travelled to various places in the past 8 years. America, France, Portugal, Uk, Prague and I have never had to experience this and find it hard to believe that this is legal even in this current climate . I just felt that I needed to get it off my chest to those of you who may have had the same experience and to raise awareness.

Thanks for listening!!

Bodach
Posted by

Hi,

Sorry to hear that you had an unfortunate and embarrassing time going through airport security, nothing quite like it to take the edge of an enjoyable holiday.

I had a look at various countries airport security regulations and many of them do in fact make specific reference to breast prosthesis.

To be safe in future I would suggest the following.

1. Ask your doctor/hospital for a letter explaining that you wearing a mastectomy bra and have breast prosthesis.

2. Have information in English and in the language of the country you are visiting stating

To whom it may concern.

The holder named on this card  because of breast prosthesis you are wearing a mastectomy bra which contains wire bands, and that should it become necessary to examine this person, a QUALIFIED MEDICAL PRACTITIONER should be present and any examination should be conducted in a private room. Should it be necessary for the removal of the mastectomy bra for screening it must be transported in a sterile manner.

Most of the above has been taken the cards we Ostomates carry with us when we travel through airport security.

It's a bit late for the recent holiday but I hope it might help in the future. We have enough to contend with without the added stress of airport security.

Ian

A quien corresponda. El titular nombrado en esta tarjeta a causa de la prótesis mamaria está usando un sostén de mastectomía que contiene bandas de alambre, y que si fuera necesario examinar a esta persona, debería estar presente un MÉDICO CUALIFICADO y cualquier examen debería ser Conducido en una habitación privada. En caso de que sea necesario para la retirada de la mastectomía sujetador para el cribado debe ser transportado de una manera estéril.

mwill
Posted by

Hi Ian, 

Thank you so much for this response. I will be prepared for my next trip.

Kacang
Posted by

Wow  That sounds horrible and humiliating. No one should have to go through that, security or no. 

I have had a couple of experiences of going through the whole body scanner where my chest area with mastectomy showed up as a black blob. At first I thought it was radiotherapy, as it was not long after I'd finished radio, but I was assured that's not the case. So now my nerdy hubby has decided it's the algorithm used to determine a normal body and as lopsided Lizzie I'm not "normal". Both times I've been patted down quite respectfully. 

Perhaps  could look at the possibility of Macmillan producing a breast prosthesis card as suggested or at least putting suitable wording up on the site with translations. Possibly would have more clout with the Macmillan logo etc. Thanks Jazmine :)

Best

Jazmine - Admin
Posted by

Hi ,

Great idea. I'll pass it onto the relevant team.

Best wishes,

Jazmine

Kacang
Posted by

Thanks Jazmine

Jess - Admin
Posted by

There's information on the UK Gov website here about your rights at the airport which I thought some of you might be interested in.

Best wishes,

Jess

Bodach
Posted by

As responded we in the stoma group can pick up our cards for many sources I cannot see any such cards widely available to cover breast prosthesis and I very much doubt if such cards with translations are freely available from any source. 

It was quite easy for me to come up with appropriate wording in English as I had a template to work to and subsequently easy to translate. The problem arises in how many languages do you have wording translated into. 

I doubt if there is an ostomate who does not travel by air unless they have a translation card in their purse/wallet/bag. 

Ian 

mwill
Posted by

Great idea jazmine.

Expatbrit
Posted by

I am so sorry to hear about your dreadful experience, I have a hip replacement and always warn people at security (with a smile -I'm about to beep!). Have to say that I have always been treated with respect and understanding and I hope that what happened to you was an isolated incident by an ignorant and unfeeling individual. Never thought of carrying a card or anything, just mentioning it was enough. Did you complain? What reaction did you get? 

mwill
Posted by

I was so upset and trying to keep in control in front of my son that I just wanted to get away from the situation. I sent a complaint as soon as I arrived home to the Malaga airport and they have acknowledged receipt so I await a response..if any!

mathemagician
Posted by

Has there been any progress on a travel card? I am flying for the first time in August and am a little anxious.

Jazmine - Admin
Posted by

Hi ,

No update at the moment, I'm afraid. I passed the idea onto the relevant team here at Macmillan, and it's something they're thinking about for the future.

 posted this helpful UK Gov guide to security scanning further up in this discussion - I hope this can be of some use. Do let me know if you've got any questions as I'm happy to help.

Best wishes,

Jazmine