How to Find a Comfortable Bra After a Mastectomy
October has always been a memorable month. First of all, it's my birthday month. Second, Fall (my favorite season) is always in full swing and I get to take advantage of all things pumpkin spice. And as of last year, it's the month I underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction—which just felt like par for the course in 2020. Being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at age 35 wasn't exactly a chapter I expected to write in my book, but it happened and I'm happy to report that I'm officially cancer-free.
After 20 weeks of chemo, I opted to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction in October 2020. Some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a lumpectomy, a breast-conserving procedure to remove cancerous or abnormal breast tissue. Others choose a single or double mastectomy (removing all the breast tissue from one or both breasts). And some opt for reconstruction, which could take multiple surgeries to finalize. There are seemingly countless variables that go into this incredibly personal decision, and it's one I agonized over making for six months.
Until I found myself prepping for life after a mastectomy, it never occurred to me what sort of bra I would need after surgery. Most of the bras I found early in my research looked very medical, but I was convinced there were better, more attractive options for the recovery process and beyond. "Most women don't know all of the different stages and different types of bras that you'll need through that journey," says Laura Tempesta, sports bra expert and founder of Bravolution. "After a mastectomy, there's limited shoulder mobility, sensitivity around your scars, sensitivity if you had lymph nodes removed, and then if you have drains, there could be sensitivity with them. Generally, right after surgery, most patients are getting their bras from a proper medical supply store or from their surgeon, but once they're released to wear a standard bra, there are so many options available."
When bra shopping after a mastectomy, Tempesta recommends looking for breathable fabric, no underwire, wide under bands, and wide shoulder straps. "You also want a high neckline and high underarm coverage," she explains. "Look for bras that are supportive and slightly compressive with cup separation.
The bra expert says there's a lot of similarity between post-surgery bras and nursing bras. "In both cases, you've got bodies that are changing a lot in a relatively short period of time," she says. Here are a few of my favorite bras that'll support you after a mastectomy.
- Best Soft Bra for Post-Surgery: Never Say Never Post-Surgical Front Closure Bralette
- Best Bra That Feels Like a Traditional Demi Bra: Second Skin Lightly Lined Wireless Bra
- Best Feminine-Feeling Bra: Embraceable Signature Unlined Wireless Bra
- Best Surprisingly Supportive Bra: Mid V Wirefree Lined Bra
- Best Front-Closure Sports Bra for Post-Surgery: Bianca Front Closure Bra
- Best Smoothing Bra: Women's Comfort Smoothing Bralette
- Best Comfortable Bra for Hot Flashes: True Body Lift Mesh Triangle Bra
- Best Sports Bra: Air Control Deltapad Maximum Support Sports Bra
- Best Strapless Bra: The No-Wire Strapless
I was measured for my post-mastectomy bras by a certified mastectomy fitter and highly recommend the experience. Also, the traditional rules still apply for annual bra fittings whether you've had a mastectomy or not. "As with all kinds of surgeries, people experience swelling for far longer than they realize," she says. "Sometimes it can take up to a year for the swelling to go down completely. After surgery, you want to get fitted pretty regularly or wear a bra that can change with you."
Best Soft Bra for Post-Surgery: Never Say Never Post-Surgical Front Closure Bralette
After surgery when my scars were still healing, all I wanted was something soft. This bra has a front closure which was ideal since I had range of motion restrictions for six weeks after each of my surgeries.
Best Bra That Feels Like a Traditional Demi Bra: Comfort Smoothing Lightly Lined Wireless Bra
Before my mastectomy, I typically wore a seamless demi bra with underwire. This bra is as close as it gets to my pre-mastectomy bras. It's a seamless bra with molded cups and the back closure has four rows. "Additional closure rows allow you to micro-adjust for changes in your body," Tempesta says.
Best Feminine-Feeling Bra: Embraceable Signature Unlined Wireless Bra
This bra is the ultimate in comfort with the perfect amount of delicate lace on the thick band and the supportive, unlined cups. Reviewers give this bra a 4.6 out of 5 stars with one saying "I had breast reconstruction and always had trouble getting a proper fit. This bra is perfect."
Best Surprisingly Supportive Bra: Mid V Wirefree Lined Bra
When I first saw this bra, I was a little skeptical that it could hold everyhting in place, but it greatly exceeded my expectations. The bra looks like a bralette with it's wirefree seamless design, but it functions like a traditional, supportive bra. Mindd bras are designed for larger breasts and this bold pink color is available in five sizes.
Best Front-Closure Sports Bra for Post-Surgery: Bianca Front Closure Bra
I wear sports bras regularly now, and the front closure on this bra has made it convenient to get the right fit. Tempesta recommends bras like this with two rows of closure. "It allows you to control how much compression you have," she says.
Best Smoothing Bra: Women's Comfort Smoothing Bralette
The curved seam under the seamless cups creates a built-in wirefree support. I like how high this bra goes in front and in the armpits, and the smoothing fabric stays put on my sides and back. Available in six sizes and five colors, this bra has more than 600 5-star reviews.
Best Comfortable Bra for Hot Flashes: True Body Lift Mesh Triangle Bra
One of the side effects of treatment is hot flashes, and this bra makes them a little more bearable. The mesh panels on the back and sides allow for extra airflow. I especially like how this bra can convert from standard straps to criss cross without having to remove the straps. This bra sizing works for cups A through F and comes in six colors.
Best Sports Bra: Air Control Deltapad Maximum Support Sports Bra
The first bra I was fitted for after my surgery was this gem. It comes in 9 cup sizes and 7 band sizes, and looks great under almost every shirt. It's a super supportive, German-made bra that's also lightweight and breathable. While technically a sports bra, I find it comfortable enough to wear as an everyday bra. The high neck ensures things stay in place and the triangle foam cups create a natural shape.
Best Strapless Bra: The No-Wire Strapless
On the rare occassions when I need a strapless bra, this one saves the day. Unlike most strapless bras, this option has no underwire (a no-no after a mastectomy) and features a no-slip strip at the top of the cups to keep it in place. Ideal for cups A through C, this bra comes in handy when I wear a strapless sundress or blouse.