If you've had a mastectomy and have not opted for a breast reconstruction, if you have had a lumpectomy, external breast prostheses can restore the look of your breasts when wearing clothes and provide you with the weight of the breast so you don't feel lopsided.
What kinds of external breast prostheses are available?
A temporary prosthesis is a pocket filled with soft, fluffy material and can be used while your scar is healing and until you're ready for a permanent prosthesis, if you choose to wear one.
A permanent prosthesis is a silicone mould resembling the shape and weight of the breast, and fits into your bra to restore shape and maintain balance and alignment of the spine.
There are also special prostheses for swimming costumes.
How much are they?
Breast prostheses can cost between $130 and $400 and usually need to be replaced every two years.
The cost of prostheses can be claimed through Medicare. You can make a claim for a new prosthesis every two years. The National External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program page on the Department of Human Services website has more information.
You can also read an article about the program in Issue 55 of The Beacon magazine (Winter 2011). This article includes information for women who may have difficulty meeting the upfront cost of purchasing a prosthesis.
Some private health insurance funds also provide a rebate for post-mastectomy items, including prostheses, bras and swimming costumes. Some women have told us they claim the cost of their prosthesis through Medicare, and claim the cost of post-mastectomy bras and/or a swimming costume through their private health insurance fund.
Where can I get a prosthesis?
Breast prostheses are available from a number of retail outlets, including department stores, specialist stores and online. Your nurse or Cancer Council helpline (telephone 13 11 20) can help you find a specialist prosthesis fitter in your area.
If you are visiting a store to purchase a prosthesis, it may be a good idea to phone first and make an appointment with the prosthesis fitter.
If you are purchasing a prosthesis from an internet site, it is important to remember that you may not be able to have it fitted properly by a specialist fitter.
Some organisations offer a mobile service where they bring a variety of breast prostheses to you, so you can try them in the privacy of your home.
You may like to shop around before purchasing your prosthesis as they can vary in terms of quality and price.
New high technology body scanners are now operating at the international security checkpoints at all Australian international airports. The new body scanners were introduced to enhance airport security. They are designed to detect threats that current scanning technology is unable to pick up.
External breast prosthesis will be detected by the scanners because they are external to your body.
The Government has assured us that if you wear breast prostheses, you will be treated sensitively and your privacy will be protected. You should not be asked to remove your breast prostheses or raise your clothing to show any prosthesis you are wearing.
If you are travelling internationally and are wearing breast prosthesis, or carrying one in your hand luggage, you may like to carry a letter from your doctor explaining the prosthesis, in case you are questioned during the security screening process.
Also, you may like to let the security staff know before you are scanned so that they can be sure to treat you discreetly. You can ask to speak privately with a female staff member if you wish.
Making a complaint
If you are unhappy about the way you were treated during the security screening process, you may like to make a complaint.
Complaints about your treatment should be addressed at the screening point with airport staff. You may also ask to speak to a supervisor at the screening point if you wish.
If you are unhappy with the response of the airport staff or the screening supervisor, you can put your complaint to the airport in writing. All airports that will have body scanners in use have contact information on their website.
- Sydney Airport
- Melbourne Airport
- Brisbane Airport
- Perth Airport
- Adelaide Airport
- Darwin Airport
- Gold Coast Airport
- Cairns Airport
If you are not happy with the result, you can make a complaint directly the Department of Infrastructure and Transport. To do this, you can send your complaint through the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website or you can write to them:
Department of Infrastructure and Transport
GPO Box 594
CANBERRA ACT 2601
- Ask your healthcare professional to order you a My Care Kit which includes a comfortable Berlei bra and temporary breat prosthesis.
- The Cancer Australia Guide for women with early breast cancer in My Journey Kit has more information on breast prostheses.
- Download The Cancer Council's comprehensive booklet on breast prosthesis and reconstruction, or call 13 11 20 and they will mail a free copy to you.
- Join our online network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.
- Phone the Cancer Council help line on 13 11 20 for advice on a specialist breast prosthesis fitter in your area.
- Visit Cancer Council NSW's website for information on understanding breast prostheses and reconstruction.
- Cancer Australia also provides information on their website about breast prostheses.