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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!!
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.
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.
Thank you so much for this response. I will be prepared for my next trip.
Wow mwill 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 Jazmine - Admin 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 :)
Great idea. I'll pass it onto the relevant team.
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.
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.
Great idea jazmine.
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?
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!
Has there been any progress on a travel card? I am flying for the first time in August and am a little anxious.
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.
Jess - Admin 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.
Now, if you think there are issues and challenges going through airport security for a woman with breast prosthesis - please consider the trials & tribulations of a transgender person (MtF) traveling by air! Regardless of the Equality Act 2010, the embarrassment, degradation and trauma of passing through airport security within the U.K.,(let alone overseas), can be a traumatic and even life changing experience.
Regardless of any research one does, the bottom line is, it can be a damned minefield. However, in the U.K. because of seemingly different security regimes at airports one should anticipate the worse scenario occurring.
There's an old saying I recommended you remember. "Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom if ever wasted".
Contact the airline whom you are flying with. Without being embarrassed (please!) explain you wear breast prosthesis for medical reasons (no need to talk about your mastectomy) and request they contact security and make it plain on your boarding information that your wear breast prosthesis for medical reasons. Regardless of their response, I recommend you carry a letter from your doctor or your Macmillan consultant (if overseas travel also in the language(s) of the country you'll be departing from or traveling too), and try to get confirmation from airport security if possible before you arrive at the airport. Check with check-in desk too in order to ascertain your "special" informational request was acknowledged (no passengers nearby will know what your "special" request was!) Proceed through security holding your letter (if challenged) and carry on to the departure lounge. If you are challenged after a body scan, ask to be escorted by a person of your gender to a private room (it's your legal right) for any questioning, search or (I hope not) examination. Quote the Equalities Act 2010 if they get difficult. And If things get really worse,be very nice but firm and threaten to sue the security operators under the Human Rights Act! Most important, do not let it delay your flight!
Of course, it goes without saying problems may still occur, but at least you'll have done as much as you can to alleviate the issues you might encounter at airport security. Mind you, there's a lot to be said about traveling by train or boat where possible!!
Whatever, try to enjoy your trip and don't worry too much. Hugz, Kerrie x. www.tranzaction.com
(BTW, in case you were wondering, my partner had non-Hodgin's lymphoma in 2016 and she is in remission. We have nothing but praise for the Macmillan Trust, their nurses and the Clan in Aberdeen)
Thank you for your very comprehensive reply. I did contact the airport and complained about how I was treated. Their response was in the interests of security they felt that security had behaved accordingly!!!
I must say I have travelled quite a few times since this unfortunate incident last year and I have had absolutely no problems whatsoever. I do now wear a bra without wires and have a back up letter from my consultant just in case!
I will be prepared should there ever be a next time!!!
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