If you have had a mastectomy and do not want a breast reconstruction, you may like to consider wearing an external breast prosthesis to help give you the look of two breasts when dressed in your clothes.
Breast prostheses are also useful if you want to restore the weight of your breast so that you don’t feel lopsided.
What kinds of external breast prostheses are available?
A temporary breast prosthesis is a pocket filled with soft, fluffy material and can be used while the scar from your breast cancer surgery is healing. They are often used by women who are waiting for a permanent prosthesis. BCNA’s free My Care Kit provides women with a temporary prosthesis, which can be ordered through your breast care nurse.
A permanent prosthesis is a silicone mould which resembles the shape and weight of your original breast. It fits into your bra to restore shape and helps to maintain balance and alignment of the spine. There are also special prostheses for swimming costumes.
How much are they?
Breast prostheses cost between $130 and $400. They 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. You can find more information on The National External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program page on the Department of Human Services website.
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. Check with your fund to see what you can claim.
Where can I get a prosthesis?
You can get a breast prosthesis from a number of retail outlets, including department stores, specialist stores and online. BCNA's local service directory can also help you find a specialist prosthesis fitter in your area.
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 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.
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 may also 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 in writing. All airports that have body scanners in use have contact information on their website. In Australia, these airports are:
- Adelaide Airport
- Brisbane Airport
- Cairns Airport
- Darwin Airport
- Gold Coast Airport
- Melbourne Airport
- Perth Airport
- Sydney Airport
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, you can send your complaint through the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website or you can write to them at:
Department of Infrastructure and Transport
GPO Box 594
CANBERRA ACT 2601
If you would like more information of breast prostheses, please consider the following resources:
- Ask your healthcare professional to order you a free My Care Kit which includes a specially designed Berlei bra and temporary breast prosthesis.
- Download Cancer Australia’s Guide for women with early breast cancer or read your free copy in your My Journey Kit.
- Download the Cancer Council’s comprehensive booklet on breast prostheses 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 on 13 11 20 for advice on a specialist breast prosthesis fitter in your area.
- Visit Cancer Council NSW’s website for information on breast prostheses and reconstruction.
- Cancer Australia also provides information on their website about breast prostheses.