After undergoing a mastectomy, not every woman opts to have reconstructive surgery, and for those who choose not to, a mastectomy bra can be a comfortable and attractive alternative.

"Some women just don't want reconstructive surgery and they feel totally comfortable wearing a prosthesis instead," explains Stephanie Bernik, MD, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Most of the time it's older women who don't want to do reconstructive surgery, but there are younger women who opt out of it as well."

If you decide not to have reconstructive surgery, you'll be referred to a certified bra fitter following surgery. While choosing the right bra seems like a real chore, a certified mastectomy bra fitter can make shopping stress-free, assures Bernik.

"Bra shopping is not fun for the average person, but for someone who has just had breast surgery, it can be daunting," says Lisa Vanderwall, RN, BSN, CBCN, CF-M, a certified mastectomy bra fitter and oncology nurse at Loyola University Medical Center. "The right bra can really help a woman feel better psychologically."

The good news is that a woman who opts for a mastectomy bra doesn't have to settle for one that looks like just one more hospital garment, says Tali Paz Zinman of, an online shopping source that carries mastectomy bras. "There are beautiful lace bras in all colors, but choosing the right bra and being fitted correctly should be your priority," she says.

How to Buy a Mastectomy Bra

Here's what you need to know when you're choosing a mastectomy bra:

  • Take it one step at a time. Immediately after mastectomy, a post-surgical camisole with fiber-fill puffs and pockets for your drains is very helpful, Vanderwall explains. Once your drains have been removed, the next step is a temporary front closure bra and temporary breast form.  At eight weeks post-op, the final breast prosthesis and mastectomy bra fitting should take place, provided the incision is completely healed and all the swelling is gone.
  • Make an appointment with a certified fitter. It is very important to meet with a certified fitter so that everything is assessed and a proper fitting occurs. "The prosthesis shouldn't move around or jiggle," Zinman says. "It's all about comfort." Typically the prosthesis is made of natural silicone so that it won't be too hot or heavy.
  • Choose a bra in a very soft fabric. "Cotton is very good, as are silk and rayon," says Zinman. "You want a fabric that will let the skin breathe. And look carefully at the seams of a bra to make sure there aren't a lot of stitches, which could be uncomfortable. A seamless bra is the best choice."
  • Pick the right size. It is important that the prosthesis you wear is about the bra size that you were before your surgery. "Your body is already used to a particular weight of breast," explains Zinman. "Sticking to the same cup size can help you avoid neck and back problems."

Lisa Vanderwall, RN, BSN, CBCN, CF-M, reviewed this article.