A breast prosthesis, or breast form, is an artificial breast shape designed to be worn inside your bra after a mastectomy or partial mastectomy.
Some people use a breast prosthesis while they wait for breast reconstruction surgery. Others decide not to have reconstruction surgery and are happy with a permanent external prosthesis.
A temporary breast prosthesis or breast form is a lightweight pocket filled with soft material. It can be used while the scar from your breast cancer surgery is healing. It is often used by people who are waiting for a permanent prosthesis.
There are several different types available. Your breast care nurse or a specialist bra fitter can give the best advice. If you have had part of your breast removed, you might find it helpful to wear a partial prosthesis. This can be a soft form similar to a push-up bra insert.
BCNA’s free My Care Kit provides people who have recently had surgery, with a temporary prosthesis, which can be ordered through your breast care nurse. The My Care Kit also contains a post-surgical bra which is designed to be comfortable yet supportive while you recover from surgery.
A permanent external breast prosthesis is generally made from silicone and is worn inside your bra. It is designed to complete the shape of your breast and give shape to your clothes. A permanent breast prosthesis will match the weight, size and shape of your remaining breast. It is specially weighted so that it feels and moves like your other breast and helps to maintain both your balance and alignment of your spine.
You can also get special prostheses to wear when swimming.
Breast prostheses usually cost between $300 and $500 and generally need to be replaced every two years. You can claim a reimbursement of up to $400 from Medicare (or up to $800 if you need a prosthesis for both breasts following a double mastectomy).
Some private health insurance funds also provide a rebate for post-mastectomy items, including prostheses, bras and swimming costumes. Some people have told us that 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.
Check with your fund to see what you can claim.
You can get a breast prosthesis from a number of retail outlets, including:
If you want to visit 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 a website, 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 can shop around before purchasing your prosthesis as they can vary in terms of quality and price.
An external breast prosthesis is best fitted by an experienced breast care nurse or an accredited breast prosthesis fitter.
Airport body scanners will detect external breast prostheses because the prostheses are external to your body.
The Australian Government has assured us that if you wear a breast prosthesis, you will be treated sensitively, and your privacy will be protected. You should not be asked to remove your breast prosthesis or raise your clothing to show any prosthesis you are wearing.
If you are travelling internationally and are wearing a 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 about it.
You can 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.
If you are unhappy about the way you were treated during the security screening process, you could make a complaint.
Complaints about your treatment should be addressed at the screening point with airport staff. You can 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 in writing. All airports that have body scanners in use have contact information on their website.
If you are still not happy with the result, you can make a further complaint directly to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport. To do this, send your complaint through the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website or write to them at:
Department of Infrastructure and Transport
GPO Box 594
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Ask your healthcare professional to order you a free My Care Kit which includes a specially designed Berlei bra and temporary breast prosthesis.
Visit Services Australia's External Breast Reimbursement Program.
Visit My Journey, BCNA’s online tool for information tailored to your diagnosis.
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