Selecting a Bra After Bilateral Mastectomy

What is a bilateral mastectomy?


A bilateral mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breasts to prevent or treat breast cancer. Cancer that is advanced enough to warrant a bilateral mastectomy is rarely found in both breasts simultaneously. Most women opt for a bilateral mastectomy because of fear of recurrence in the other breast. 

The process of recovering from mastectomy is different for everyone, as not all mastectomies are the same. The surgery involves a short hospital stay and a follow-up in a week or two. 

Mastectomy Bras and Recovery 

Recovering from bilateral mastectomy is comparable to recovering from a unilateral mastectomy, except that the risk for infection is twice as high. Surgical drains will be put on the side of your chest, which will remain in place for at least a week or two. 

Here are some of the post-surgical side effects that one should prepare for after the procedure:

  • fatigue
  • pain and stiffness in the arms
  • infection
  • phantom breast pain or numbness
  • lymphedema

Whether you choose to have breast reconstruction or use a prosthesis, you will still be needing a bra, as bras offer a lot of comfort after surgery. Some mastectomy bras have soft inner linings which won’t rub against sensitive skin or scars as they heal. Some mastectomy bras also have special pockets to accommodate a prosthesis.

There are various types of bras available for women who underwent this procedure. One’s specific needs while in the healing process will determine which type is appropriate. 


Types of Bras for Post Bilateral Mastectomy

Soft Cup Front-Closing Bras

Breast surgery sometimes affects your shoulder rotation, and this will cause discomfort while reaching hooks on a bra that closes in the back, or pulling a bra on over your head. This is where front-closure bras could come in handy. Front-closure bras with soft cups will stretch to fit over surgical dressings, offering light support and compression on the incisions.

Compression Bras and Vests

Compression bras and vests are recommended by surgeons post-surgery. These offer great coverage of the breasts, back, and underarm tissues. Compression on incisions can also prevent swelling from fluid buildup. The right compression bra will keep the skin in place and prevent stretching around the stitches. 

Tops and Camisoles

Some doctors may also recommend wearing tops and camisoles that are lightweight, and with built-in bra cups or prostheses, that will help hold the surgical drains in place. They may also recommend t-shirts, nightgowns, and pajama tops that also have removable drain pockets on the side. 

Material to Consider


Recovering from surgery not only makes movement difficult. It also affects the skin as you heal. Let comfort be your guide when shopping for post-surgical bras and tops. 

Choose a bra that has wide bands across the shoulders and beneath the breasts to ensure that it will stay in place and will not dig into the skin. Get a bra that has adjustable straps and closures to help you adjust to the most comfortable fit. Because wounds get dry as it heals, the part where the incisions were could get itchy. To avoid this, wear a seamless bra to lessen irritation to the skin, especially on your healing incisions.

Avoid wearing underwires, as they can dig into the skin. Lastly, the most important thing to consider is the fabric. Breathable fabrics and natural fibers such as 100% organic cotton bras will prevent sweating and further itching, as organic cotton bras are hypoallergenic. 

Some women have the desire to purchase post mastectomy bras immediately after the surgery is complete, but it is very important to allow your body to heal before wearing a bra, and consult your doctor about which type of bra is appropriate for you. Consider comfort, not just while moving, but also comfort on the skin as you heal.