Getting even after surgery: A guide to maintaining breast symmetry
Not quite feeling balanced after breast surgery? You’re not alone. The result for many women post-mastectomy is uneven breasts and this is often unavoidable - you can’t always predict the results of breast surgery, whether it's lumpectomy or mastectomy with reconstruction.
Breasts that have undergone surgery will more than likely have imperfections (just like natural breasts). Size is the most common form of asymmetry as they aren’t always the same size as a remaining natural breast. This may be down to the amount of tissue needing removal or due to the subsequent effect that radiotherapy has had to the skin or surrounding breast tissue. It can be difficult for a surgeon to estimate exactly how a reconstructed breast will heal; scar tissue and swelling can also cause irregularities in breasts.
Many women opt for a breast reconstruction, but this does not necessarily allow for more even breasts, especially over time. A partial shaper can help this evening up process. The same goes for lumpectomy surgery - shapers can fill in the missing areas. If your clothes fit uncomfortably due to the shape of your breasts, a partial shaper may be the answer.
You’ve probably seen shapers in underwear or department stores, usually on a display of lingerie accessories. They may be called bra inserts, gel pads, breast enhancers, chicken fillets, or shapers. Partial shapers are the kind designed to fill, cover and conceal almost any type of breast asymmetry as a result of surgery or radiotherapy (they can also be used to balance naturally uneven breasts). They can be replaced over time to reflect the changing shape of your breasts as you age. Some shapers can also securely adhere directly to your body for a greater sense of freedom.
For example, if unevenness is a problem a partial shaper such as the one pictured below would be ideal as it is designed to cover your breast.
The partial adds enough shape to create an even silhouette and can be rotated to fill in where it’s needed most. You can buy this shaper here.
If an enhancer is required a partial such as the one below may be used. It comes in various thicknesses, shapes and sizes as the surgery type and amount of tissue removed varies from one woman to another. It is also designed to be rotated to fill in where it’s needed most. You can find this kind of shaper here.
Partial shapers may be reimbursable by medicare if you have had breast cancer.
Medicare Rebate Scheme
The Medicare Rebate scheme was developed to help women who have had breast cancer cover cost of external breast prostheses after surgery. You can claim once every two years up to a maximum of $400. The usual warranty on breast prostheses is two years and with the advancements being made in materials and design, it allows women to update regularly.
For example, if you bought 1 prosthesis costing $340 the full amount would be reimbursed as it is below the $400 maximum. If you had a bilateral mastectomy and bought two prostheses at $500 each ($1000 total) you would be reimbursed $800 - that’s a maximum of $400 per prosthesis.
To qualify for the reimbursement scheme you must:
- Be enrolled in Medicare
- Have had breast surgery as a result of breast cancer
- Have not purchased and claimed under the program in the past 2 years
The program lets you claim money back from the cost of new or replacement prostheses you bought after breast cancer surgery. You’ll need to pay upfront the cost of the prostheses then claim through Medicare. Depending on the level of cover you have with a private health fund you may also wish to claim a leisure form or swim prosthesis through them. Call your private health fund to see if you would be covered.
If you recieve income support, you may be eligible for an advance payment to cover the upfront cost before claiming - check here for more information. You can only claim under the program for prostheses that have been purchased at least 2 years since you bought your last prosthesis, regardless of your last reimbursement amount.
For more information on the reimbursement scheme you can visit the Australian Government Department of Human Services site - or just drop us an email, we’re always happy to help. You can also shop for partial shapers on our dedicated page.