Fit for Life: Mastectomy Products Must Complement Body Type and Lifestyle
For mastectomy clients, the most important product detail is a good fit. Helping clients achieve the proper fit takes attention to details from body type to the woman's lifestyle.
"The most important skill a fitter can have aside from measuring and fitting is listening," says Angela Harvey, marketing coordinator, American Breast Care, Marietta, Ga. "Ask questions about the woman?s taste clothes she prefers wearing, etc. and lifestyle activities she enjoys, exercise she participates in. Those factors will make a huge difference in the choices we help her make. They'll also make the difference in whether or not the products come back, and more importantly, that the customer comes back.
FROM THE HISTORY BOOKS: Documented cases of breast cancer date back to the early Egyptians, according to American Breast Care's Angela Mayfield. Doctors have been performing mastectomies since the 18th century. But until the 1970s, prosthetic breasts for post-mastectomy women were small sacks filled with rice, beads and other materials and sealed with tapestry glue.
Harvey says that recent technology has focused on lowering the density of breast forms. "Lighter forms feel more comfortable and place less strain on the bra strap. Lighter forms have been achieved by adding lightweight fillers to silicone gels in order to lower the density. Other adjustments had to be made to the silicone gel formulations to ensure the proper softness and response would be maintained."
Standard silicone, the choice material for breast forms, imitates the softness and response of natural breast tissue. The material also happens to be nearly the same density as the natural breast, allowing the same size to weigh the same as the remaining breast, says Harvey.
"There are primarily two factors that help a woman narrow down her choice of breast form," says Harvey. "The first is her individual body type, including the surgery that she's had, and the second is her personal preference. Some women like the feel of standard silicone because it duplicates the look, weight and feel of the remaining breast. Others prefer softer breast forms that provide a very natural drape. The choices and benefits are very individual."
A personal fitting helps determine the proper fit and the perfect product. A certified fitter brings experience and education to the session, says Harvey. Some providers even offer a private fitting boutique to ease the comfort of the client.
Find the Perfect Fit for Bras
Nearly Me Technologies, Waco, Texas, offers the following tips on its Web site for fitting bras, which is just as important as fitting a prosthesis:
- Because tastes differ, stock several types of bras when fitting a prosthesis and bra.
- Customer preference, physique, amount of remaining natural tissue and the type of surgery will help determine the correct style for the client. Offer choices that match the client's already established tastes.
- Measure the client before fitting a bra and prosthesis. Oftentimes the woman has lost or gained weight since her surgery or a previous fitting.
- If the client has any open skin areas that are draining, do not fit her at this time. Explain that she should be completely healed and free of any skin breakdown before her fitting.
- Measuring for the correct band size by following these easy steps:
- With a bra on, take a snug measurement from the center of the breast bone around the body under the natural breast.
- If the measurement is uneven (29, 31, 33 inches, etc.), then add 5 inches to the measurement. Example: 31 inches around the body + 5 inches=36 inches. She would probably wear a 36 band bra. If the body measurement is 39 inches or more, add 3 inches instead of 5 inches. Example: 39 inches + 3 inches=42 inches, or a 42 band bra.
- If the body measurement is even (30, 32, 34 inches, etc.), add 4 inches. Example: 32 inches + 4 inches=36 inches. Do this for all even measurements.
- Any measurement that falls between an inch should always go up to the next inch.
- For the correct cup size, measure from the center of the chest around the fullest area of the natural breast to the center of the back. Take that measurement times 2. Example: 19 inches x 2=38 inches. If this measurement is
the same or up to 1 inch larger than the bra size......A cup
1-2 inches larger than the bra size..........................B cup
2-3 inches larger than the bra size..........................C cup
3-4 inches larger than the bra size..........................D cup
4-5 inches larger than the bra size..........................DD cup
This is the correct cup size (again, this may vary if you have to go up or down a size on the band size. Example : a 36C cup fits like a 38B cup.)
- For the correct bra and cup size for the bilateral (double mastectomy), measure around the rib cage as described above. That is her bra size. She can be any cup size. Ask her what cup size she was before surgery. She may wish to stay the same size. Explain only the benefits and complications of too small or too large breast prosthesis. Consider height, weight and figure type. If the customer is 5?10? tall will full hips, generally do not fit her in an A cup bra. Use your best judgment.
- Choosing a breast form for your customer it is important to replace the weight lost after surgery to maintain proper balance and posture. Selecting the proper shape and size breast form begins with determining the type of surgery the client has had and the best style of bra that fits the remaining breast. Take into consideration the type of natural breast tissue that is remaining, the skin and tissue firmness.
Check out more information at www.nearlyme.org.
Educate the Fitter
Nearly Me Technologies Inc. offers the Mastectomy training course, which has been approved by Board for Orthotists/Prosthetist Certification (BOC) and American Board for Certification in Orthotics & Prosthetics,Inc. (ABC) as one of the Entry Level School courses for Continuing Education Credits. The course is an introduction to all that encompasses a mastectomy fitting from the very basic understanding of cancer to the most detailed questions regarding how to handle specific fitting situations.
Additional courses with CPE credits are as follows:
- Sept. 27-30, 2006 Aopa National Convention, Hollywood, Fla.
- Oct. 9, 2006 Classique, Las Vegas
- Oct. 9, 2006 International, Las Vegas
- Oct. 26, 2006 Nashville, Tenn.
- Nov. 9, 2006 Dallas
To sign up, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 887-3370.
For more on Women's Health products, check out Elisha's Picks in the September issue of Home Health Products.
This article originally appeared in the September 2006 issue of HME Business.