About Breast Prostheses and Mastectomy Bras
Reflections is committed to helping women adjust to the changes brought about by breast cancer.
We appreciate that changes in body image are difficult for most women and that everyone needs much care as she adjusts to these changes.
Women who are educated about options, offered choices, and have emotional support during the process do well. Reflections Boutique is an environment in which a woman can find the products she needs to restore her body image as well as treat her concerns with respect, privacy, and support.
Commonly asked questions and answers:
A breast prosthesis or breast form is an artificial breast that is used after a surgery in which the breast has been altered or removed. Whether the loss of the breast is permanent or temporary, a breast form can be worn to simulate the natural breast and body shape. Full breasts and partial breasts, known as equalizers, can be purchased to balance the appearance depending on what type of surgical procedure was performed. These forms come in a variety of materials (usually silicone, foam or fiberfill) and they can be worn inside a bra or attached to the body with a special adhesive.
Many women who have been treated for breast cancer have had a surgery that leads to an alteration in their physical appearance. Sometimes these alterations are permanent; they may be temporary if reconstruction is scheduled for a later time. The common types of surgeries include:
Lumpectomy - removal of a breast tumor and some of the breast
Modified/Simple Mastectomy - removal of the breast tissue
Radical Mastectomy - surgical removal of breast tissue and underlying muscle
A silicone breast prosthesis is weighted and simulates the natural breast. One of its advantages is that it helps your body be symmetrical again and remain in balance. When the body is out of balance following a surgery of this kind, other muscle-skeletal problems can develop. Back, neck and shoulder problems are common as well as a tendency for one shoulder to drop downward and inward while the other rises up. Women also often report that the bra rides up or moves around if there is no weighted breast form on one side of the bra.
Wearing a breast prosthesis is a personal choice. Many women want to wear one because they want to wear the same clothing that they wore prior to the surgery and they want to look symmetrical. There are other advantages to having a breast prosthesis.
Give you warmth
Protect your chest and scars
Help balance your posture
Keep your bra from shifting or riding up
Help prevent problems with curvature of the spine, shoulder drop and muscular pain in the neck and back
Special bras are made that have pockets to hold the prosthesis. There are many attractive bras that come in varying colors (e.g., white, ivory, black, & nude/beige) that can be fitted at the time of the prosthesis. New products are always becoming available (in different shapes, weights, etc.) so it is a good idea to visit our store to see if there have been any advances since your last fitting.
It is a good idea to consult your physician. It varies for each woman depending on her surgery and healing. Most women will be able to wear a prosthesis (breast form) within 2-8 weeks after her surgery. Camisoles that have soft attachable prostheses can be worn immediately after surgery until the surgical site is healed.
Reflections is a special store that fits breast prostheses and bras and provides other services. Unlike some lingerie or department stores, we cater to the needs of individuals with breast cancer. There are many different brands of prostheses. The most important concern is finding one that is comfortable and fits your body. Our expert certified breast prosthesis fitters will fit the bra and prosthesis. You may schedule an appointment for your fitting. The first fitting usually takes about an hour.
We do not sell prostheses over the Internet because we believe these products need to be fit by a certified fitter. Every woman's body is different. Most women require only one prosthesis and the goal is the match the look of the other breast and to find something that is comfortable. Expert fitters have seen hundreds of different bodies, know the products that are available and can provide a woman with the best professional fit. Sometimes there is more than one option and that really cannot be determined without trying it on. We have found that even under the best of circumstances, where patients come into the store, the fit can be difficult for some patients. We encourage you to find a place that has prostheses and certified fitters who really understand the fitting problems. Buying a breast prosthesis is not like shopping for other items and the knowledge of the person helping you can make a big difference in what you purchase and how you feel.
You may purchase the prostheses yourself; however, it is a good idea to check your medical insurance before doing this to find out if they will cover the price, how frequently they will replace the prosthesis, and what kind of authorizations are needed.
Many insurance companies will pay for all or part of a new prosthesis every 2 years and 2 to 3 bras every 6 months to a year. Most insurance plans will determine these things based on medical necessity, but some will have more strict guidelines. You will not know until you ask. For example, patients with Medicare will receive what is medically necessary, which for many patients is a new prosthesis every 2 years and 2 bras every 6 months. However, if a woman's weight changes during this time, her existing breast may change size and this could mean that she needs a new prosthesis or bras to accommodate this change.
When selecting a location to purchase a breast prosthesis, try to determine if the location will bill your insurance, whether your insurance will pay for it at that location, and how much of the balance you could be responsible for after the insurance pays. Sometimes the payments are difficult to know prior to submitting the charge. Many stores will bill you for the balance once the insurance company or insurance companies have paid their portion and determined the patient's portion.
Some stores ask you to pay in advance and then seek reimbursement from your insurance. Since prostheses have a wide range of prices, it is a good idea to find out as much as possible in advance. You need to play an active role in determining what is allowed by your insurance or medical group so that you can receive the best value as well as the best fit and comfort. We bill for all Medicare purchases and plans for which we are preferred providers. We will try to assist with other insurance.
We are preferred providers for many insurance and medical groups including Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Kaiser-Permanente and UC Medical Group. We are also a Medicare Provider. Please call (310) 794-9090 to find out more about your own insurance and how we can assist you.
A doctor usually writes a prescription for a breast form, and some insurance companies require a special authorization just like they do for specialists or other medical procedures referred from a primary care doctor. A typical prescription for a breast prosthesis and bras would say the following:
"Breast prosthesis for (right, left or bilateral) and (quantity) prosthetic bras for (diagnosis)."
Please note that if there has been a recent change in your body that requires a new prosthesis such as weight gain for weight loss, your doctor should include this information on the prescription. Any information that supports the medical necessity of the prosthesis at this point in time will help your insurance plan to understand what you need and why. This will facilitate more rapid authorization and or payment processing by your insurance plan.
Even if your insurance company does not reimburse for the price of these products, a prescription from your doctor will allow you to purchase the item without paying sales tax. Your doctor may fax the prescription directly to Reflections (310 794-9088) and we will hold it until you come for your fitting.
There are many different kinds of breast forms, and the prices vary. A high priced breast form does not insure good quality or a good fit. A proper fitting in our store is the best way to find a good fit that meets your budget. Here is the range of prices that you can expect:
Silicone Prostheses $215 - $350
Non Silicone Prostheses $40 - $80
Equalizers & Enhancers $80 - $225
Post Reconstructive/Surgical Bras $36
Post Surgical Camisoles $65 - $80
Mastectomy Bras $36 - $65
Reflections is a non-profit organization and is operated by the Simms/Mann - UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology at UCLA. The Center provides many free psychosocial services to patients with cancer including groups, a lecture series, and a library of information. All proceeds from sales support the operations of Reflections and the free services offered through the Simms/Mann – UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology. See other parts of this web site for more information or call (310) 794-6644.