xternal Breast Prosthesis

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Breast cancer is now globally one of the commonest cancers seen among women. What is more alarming is the rise in its incidence among women in the younger age groups as well. For decades, until the early 2000s, the only surgical treatment for breast cancer was complete removal of the breast – what we call a mastectomy. This procedure can add to the anxiety and depression of one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It is traumatising for a lady to lose her breast as it causes disfiguration, loss of one’s body image, lowers self-confidence and ultimately leads to poor quality of life. Though with advances in surgery, a majority of women now have the option to preserve their breast while being treated for breast cancer, some still have to undergo a mastectomy either due to the extent of the disease or the nature of the disease. In these subsets of patients, especially those who are not able to have a reconstruction of their breast following surgery, there is an alternative – external breast prosthesis.

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An external breast prosthesis (EBP) is a breast form that is placed over the chest wall following mastectomy to maintain the appearance of a breast. They are made from different materials such as silicone, cotton and handmade knitted breast forms. They are shaped like a breast and come in various sizes, some even with a special post-mastectomy bra that has a pocket to fit the prosthesis within it.

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EBP has several advantages. It helps a woman maintain her external body form and gives her the courage/confidence to carry on with her social life and work-life as normally as possible. It also helps maintain the weight balance of the non-treated breast improving body posture. It helps avoid one-sided chronic back pain that can be caused by the weight imbalance of the breast that has not been operated on.

EBP can be used once the surgical wound has healed well. It can be used through chemotherapy, if you have been advised for the same. The only time you are advised to not use an EBP is during radiation therapy; however, once the scar has healed from the radiation changes you can go back to using your EBP.

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Most prosthesis last a few years and are easy to maintain. There is no medical preference for a particular type of prosthesis and a woman should pick one that suits her best. With advances in treatment and increasing survival with breast cancer, we move towards providing breast cancer survivors with a better quality of life.

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Dr. Kirti Katherine Kabeer
M.B.B.S., M.S.(Gen.Surg.), Fellowship Breast (Oncoplasty) Surgery (RCS)
Consultant Breast Specialist and Oncoplastic Surgery
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai