If you’re reading this article, you’re probably either going through breast cancer treatment yourself or are supporting a friend or other loved one through it. While shopping for lingerie might seem trivial during such a difficult time, oncology experts say that a mastectomy bra is actually an important part of ensuring your comfort during recovery.
Experts In This Article
Best mastectomy bras at a glance:
- Best camisole: AnaOno Cecile Modal Cami, $55
- Best sports bra: Lululemon Super-Soft Adjustable Front-Wrap Bra, $78
- Best post-surgery bra: Athleta Ultimate Zip-Front Bra, $59
- Best unilateral: Tomboy X Holdster Bra, $40
- Best front-close: Third Love x AnaOno Monica Post-Surgery Bra, $59
- Best soft fabric: Knix Ultra Soft Front Closure Bra, $55
- Best bra for accommodating drains: Masthead Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra, $64
- Best sleep and lounge: Coobie Comfort Bra, $22
- Best value: Fruit of the Loom Comfort Bra, $12
- Best bra with breast forms: Polreta Post-Surgery Bra, $30
Why would you need a mastectomy bra?
There are a few different mastectomy surgery options, and those impact what kind of bra or undergarment you’ll want on the other side of your procedure. Based on the diagnosis, an oncologist might recommend either a breast-conserving surgery (also known as a lumpectomy) or a mastectomy, a procedure which removes all of the breast tissue from one or both breasts. After a single or double mastectomy, the patient can choose to either go “flat,” undergo a reconstructive surgery with internal implants, or get fitted for an external breast prosthesis that fits into a bra.
No matter what procedure you have, recovery can be long and painful. While you’re healing, and even for months after, you may experience significant discomfort and want the softest, most comfortable bras possible touching the scars and potentially swollen skin. That’s why the best post-mastectomy bras are wire-free, soft, and suited especially for the healing process and beyond.
What is the best bra to wear after a mastectomy?
Immediately after surgery, you’ll wake up in either a surgical bra, which fits like a soft vest and closes in the front with Velcro to hold in any gauze or bandages, or a compression wrap, says Monique Gary, DO, breast surgical oncologist and medical director of the Grand View Health cancer program in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.
Right after you shower at the 48-hour mark post-surgery, you can change into a soft post-mastectomy bra that fits kind of like a sports bra, but has a front closure and might hold drains that catch fluid after the surgery. “It offers some support, but doesn’t put too much stress on the chest or shoulders,” says Dr. Gary.
The surgery site can take about eight to 12 weeks to heal (or longer if you get reconstruction immediately after your mastectomy, says Dr. Gary), so you’ll need to stock up on the soft mastectomy bras before the operation. After that, you can get fitted by a professional certified mastectomy fitter for a mastectomy bra you can use with prosthetics and wear out. Or, you can continue to wear soft, comfy mastectomy bras—whatever floats your boat.
Does insurance pay for a mastectomy bra?
Health insurance plans typically cover two professionally fitted mastectomy bras per year, according to Dr. Gary. A certified bra fitter at a specialty lingerie shop or department store can help you choose a light-weight breast form, silicone breast form, custom-made prosthetics, or the right supportive bra if you want to go flat, adds Dr. Gary.
The most important tip is getting a prescription for a prosthesis before you leave the hospital, even if you’re not sure you want to go with that option, says Shelly Beckley, NP, oncological nurse practitioner and Clinical Operations Manager at breast-cancer detection company Gabbi. “It can be frustrating to try to chase down a prescription after the fact, and you do not need to use the prescription if you choose not to,” she says.
What to look for in a mastectomy bra
Your skin near your chest is going to be ultra-sensitive after surgery. Go for soft, breathable fabrics for your initial mastectomy bras post-operation. “Seamless is best and reduces possible irritation,” says Beckley. Since you’re likely to lose sensation in the chest area after surgery, be extra mindful of the fabric and construction of the bra. “It’s important to look for bras that do not have any sharp areas or fabrics that might rub against the skin and cause irritation, as it can be difficult to realize that the bra is causing damage to the skin until it’s too late,” she says.
Sports bras that you have to wiggle into probably won’t work for you right after surgery, either. “You will likely have a reduced range of motion, which makes it difficult to fasten and undo a back closure, so a front closure is super helpful,” Beckley says.
In terms of sizing, note that you might have swelling for up to a year after surgery, so look for either an adjustable bra or a slightly larger size at the beginning of the recovery, Beckley suggests. But if you decide to go flat and are not having a reconstructive surgery, you may not actually need to size up, according to Dr. Gary.
The best thing to do before stocking up on post-mastectomy bras is to check in with your doctor to get an idea of what your anticipated size will be after surgery, says Dr. Gary.
Best mastectomy bras
Best camisole style:
AnaOno Cecile Modal Cami — $55.00
Dr. Gary endorses the entire AnaOno brand, which was founded by a breast cancer survivor and is made with survivors in mind. This cami can be worn after a single or double mastectomy or a lumpectomy. It’s a solid option for later in recovery since you have to pull it over your head, which may not be possible immediately after surgery. The fabric is made from a super soft modal sourced from the fibers of beech trees, and you can easily insert prostheses or breast forms into the pocketed cups—or you can stick with the internal shelf bra and go braless.
Sizes available: S-XXL
Materials: 92 percent modal, 8 percent spandex
- Soft fabric material
- Eligible for insurance coverage
- No front closure
- May not be ideal immediately after surgery
Best mastectomy sports bra:
Lululemon Super-Soft Adjustable Front-Wrap Bra — $78.00
Though you won’t necessarily be wearing this bra right after you head home from the hospital since it hooks in the back, it should be a go-to mastectomy sports bra for later in recovery because of the adjustable front wrap. The movable front hooks can accommodate the fluctuations of swelling, and it has pockets to hold a bra cup or prosthesis. The softness of the bra offers light support to take you from yoga to errands. Be mindful of sizing though: “Definitely discuss this one with your doctor so that you don’t pull it too tight,” says Dr. Gary.
Materials: 81 percent nylon, 19 percent elastane
- Moisture-wicking for low-impact workouts
- Adjustable band
- Limited sizing options
- May not be able to be worn immediately post-surgery
Best post-surgery bra:
Athleta Ultimate Zip Front Bra — $58.00
This bra is a perfect post-surgery supporter because of its soft fabric and easy-zip front closure, says Dr. Gary. On top of that, it can support you through a HIIT workout or a run once you’re feeling up to it. There are two different variations of this bra—one for cups A-C, one for cups D-DD—each sized XXS-XL to ensure a truly comfortable, supportive fit. The bra can also fit the Athleta Empower Mastectomy Bra Inserts ($10), which come in eight different sizes and can give you a natural yet breathable shape.
Materials: Recycled nylon/lycra
- Light compression and zip front
- Compatible with bra inserts
- May not fit bodies larger than size XL
Best unilateral mastectomy bra:
Tomboy X Holdster Bra — $40.00
Not everyone has a diagnosis of cancer in both breasts or chooses to have a double mastectomy. Some people may choose to have a unilateral mastectomy, removing the tissue of one breast and leaving the other in need of support that doesn’t irritate skin around incisions.
Enter this clever solution from Tomboy X, which has a cup and strap on just one side to support the remaining breast without irritating the tender recovering skin on the other. It lacks underwire or padding for a truly light, soft bra. The band can be closed and adjusted in the front to account for swelling on one side, and goes up to sizes 4X to fit most bodies.
Materials: 59 percent polyamide, 41 percent elastane
- Adjustable band
- Suitable for many body types
- Must be washed separately with pads removed
- Not appropriate for a bilateral mastectomy
Best convertible mastectomy bra:
Third Love x AnaOno Monica Post-Surgery Full Coverage Bra — $59.00
This collab between bra retailer ThirdLove and AnaOno is a match made in heaven. The fabric is beyond soft and keeps scars fully covered in the front and on the sides. It has pockets inside to hold breast forms or prosthetics in place, too. The straps are also convertible so you can wear the bra traditionally or as a cross-back style for more support.
Because it doesn’t have a front clasp, it may be a better option for further out post-surgery, but Dr. Gary encourages discussing with your providers whether front closure as a feature is essential for your immediate post-surgery recovery period. (If you have someone to help you get dressed, it may not matter.)
Materials: 92 percent modal, 8 percent spandex
- Can be worn after a breast reduction surgery, breast augmentation surgery, or lumpectomy
- Adjustable straps and cross-back option
- No front-closure option
- Can’t be put in the dryer
Best front-closing mastectomy bra:
Knix Ultra Soft Front Closure Bra — $55.00
Do you ever look at a bra and just automatically know it’s going to be so comfy under a soft T-shirt and while sitting on the couch? That’s this bra—just add your favorite sweats. You can wear this right after surgery, since its seamless design won’t irritate scars, and it can easily be taken on and off with a front closure.
To figure out the right fit, plug in your closest estimated bra band and cup sizes, and get your Knix bra size, which ranges from XS to XXXL. The removable cups can be taken out, and prosthetics can be added in or left out.
Materials: 79 percent rayon from bamboo, 18 percent nylon, 3 percent spandex
- Completely seamless
- Sizing may be tricky if you are between cup sizes
- Cannot be put in the dryer
Best bra for accommodating post-surgery drains:
Masthead Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra — $64.00
You can use this bra after a mastectomy, lumpectomy, or even cardiac surgeries. “It’s great for drains, a common concern among postoperative patients,” says Dr. Gary, thanks to its side openings that accommodate tubes for drains. (Not every patient will have drains after a mastectomy, but some people may need them to catch excess fluid.)
The bulbs of the drain look similar to the handles of a blood pressure cuff, Dr. Gary explains; the loops and rings of this bra can hold the drain bulbs in place. The bra also features Velcro closures on the front and shoulders for easy on and off.
- Has loops and rings for drains
- Excellent size range
- May not be useful long after surgery
- Must be line-dried
Best sleep and lounge bra:
Coobie Comfort Bra — $22.00
With no underwire in sight, this Coobie Comfort Bra is as soft as a whisper on skin. This won’t be the best option for immediately after surgery, but as your recovery goes on, it may be more comfortable to wear a bra to bed (believe it or not) for the support and compression. The nylon and spandex fabric clings to your body but also stretches, which can be beneficial as swelling vacillates. There’s even a discreet opening to slip in breast forms or prosthetics.
Materials: 88 percent nylon, 12 percent spandex
- Compatible with prostheses and breast forms
- Very soft and comfortable
- May not fit all bodies
- No front-closure option
Best value mastectomy bra:
Fruit of the Loom Comfort Bra — $12.00
Want to stock up on mastectomy bras in a couple of different sizes and colors before your surgery? This one’s just a couple of clicks and two days away on Amazon. You can buy this cozy Fruit of the Loom pick in seven different colors. It may be ideal for people who go flat after a mastectomy, since there isn’t necessarily space to add a breast form. You can also wear it around the house and to bed for comfort and support.
Materials: 95 percent cotton, 5 percent spandex
- Soft, breathable cotton fabric
- Can be purchased in a multi-pack
- Front closure
- Buying by band size only can be tricky
- Not compatible with prosthetics
Best mastectomy bra with breast forms:
Polreta Post-Surgery Bra — $30.00
If you’re closer to 12 weeks post-surgery and don’t feel like wearing a fitted mastectomy bra with underwire, try this soft post-surgery bra with light cotton breast forms to give you a similar shape. It works under gym clothes or even sweaters, and feels like you’re not wearing a bra (the best feeling). You can even pop out the breast forms it comes with and place your own fitted prosthetics in the pockets if you prefer.
Materials: 75 percent nylon, 25 percent spandex
- Comes with removable lightweight cotton breast forms
- Seamless, wireless microfiber fabric
- Limited sizing
- No front-closure option
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