Cancer and the role of lingerie on the road to recovery
For the immediate post-operative period, a properly constructed bra is key. It keeps the surgeon’s work in place. It helps shape the breast. It visually restores the natural form for a woman, helping her look feminine, whole, and attractive in her clothes.
Another point is that physical discomfort and anxieties surround women of all ages; whether it is a damaged nerve, breasts that do not feel the same, physically unappealing scars, suffering from lymphedema, or worries about how to enter relationships – they are there all the time.
When the fight for survival is won and moving forward becomes necessary access to functional attractive lingerie is absolutely key. People might think “breast cancer is serious, bras are not”, but this isn’t quite right.
For a woman clothing is the signpost of personal communication – this is how she communicates to the world about changes she is making in her life. Denying those choices is inhumane and short-sighted.
It might seem “fake it till you make it”, but for a woman whose ground has been forced from underneath her it helps to see immediate improvement and gives something real to hold on to while she gradually builds strength to move forward.
Pain points in the system
- Lacking Support
For a woman going into surgery, timely access to quality, standardised products is critical. However, these support systems are undeveloped.
In an ideal world, the patient is fitted for a bra in the hospital and is given a set before the surgery. This does happen in some NHS trusts in the UK, but they are the minority.
Usually, the patient is told to bring a well-fitting bra for the operation. First, she is overwhelmed with the news and too distressed to shop for bras. Secondly, most patients draw a blank at the term “well-fitting bra”, as most women do. Thirdly, breast nurses (the key liaison with the patient) are increasingly overstretched and often are not aware of all products on the market; they refer a patient to online shopping or 3rd parties with a general spec to find ‘an M&S-type sports bra which is meant to provide compression for daytime wear and ensure surgical sutures are in place’. Unsurprisingly, many show up with the wrong bra.
How is this an issue? Because it undermines the work of the surgeon, nurses, and the whole medical system, not to mention, compromising women’s recovery.
- Absolute Shortage of Larger Sizes
The situation is particularly poor for larger sizes (cups D+ across most bands, 32–46), which are scarce due to a historical supply-side gap and not available at reasonable prices.
How did we arrive at this view?
Over a 2-year period:-
- We ran regular workshops in breast clinics across the NHS and Harley Street, in the UK.
- We interacted directly with patients (ages 30–70) in the context of bra- or prosthesis-fitting.
- We worked closely with breast nurses to develop our product. Our consultation group included nurses from 11 NHS trusts and 5 Harley Street clinics.
- We attended cancer support groups.
- We supplied our product to select London hospitals.
- We engaged with all major breast cancer charities in the UK.
What are the key considerations in designing a mastectomy bra?
As a bra maker for fuller chests, we prioritise support and comfort. As regards mastectomy, here is what we consider:
- Smoothing the body – there is often extra tissue in the underarm area (formed as a result of skin/fat transplanting) that may rub and become painful – we use tall wings to smooth that
- Supporting and giving good shape to a breast and a prosthesis (which often is heavier than the natural breast tissue and differs in shape); also preserving the integrity of the look for lumpectomy patients who need a foam-lined cup
- Comfort and breathability – we minimise seams and use hypoallergenic super-soft cotton lining, so the patient feels cocooned; this is especially welcomed by sensitive chemo- and radio-therapy patients
- Giving full confidence – pockets are designed such that the breast form stays in its place without ‘traveling’ or showing at the surface of the cup; we also use tall front panels to conceal scars
- Moisture absorption – surgical wounds, potions and lotions require good moisture wicking – our bilateral pockets address that
- Practicality and ease of maintenance – achieved with choice of colour, fabrics, wash-ability, and durability
- Adaptability of design – our post-operative designs can be worn well after the recovery as a regular mastectomy bra or comfort wear
- The bra needs to look good and be appropriate for various size groups and ages; breast cancer is no longer associated with older age; the most diagnosed age group is 30–40, and the designs need to reflect this.
- We offer 2 colour combinations (cream/pink and black/red) but are open to more as demand grows
Why do we do this?
We are a small group of women who got together to solve the shortage of good plus-size bras. We give women confidence with our products and bra health education.
Having seen so many mastectomy patients personally, we created our mastectomy range to serve women’s needs through illness to full recovery.
Our mastectomy bras are priced affordably and designed and manufactured to a high quality. This is how we support our community.
What do our clients say about us?
The bra is absolutely perfect … thank you for the speedy delivery … I was worried I wouldn’t get it before my op … My doctor at Kingston Hospital was very impressed with the bra and asked for your contacts …Size 40F
My wife loves your product because unlike the hospital’s bra that shows more of the false breast … yours cover well and do not show it … my wife feels great in her clothes now … makes me happy too.Size 40DD
It is very difficult to find pretty mastectomy bras and for my size 44E normally its only black or white bras you can buy I can’t tell you how happy I was to find this one and the fit is perfect.Size 44E
Our product range
There are 5 styles in our mastectomy range: 2 in post-operative kit and 3 in fashion, including Red Power we created for younger women.
Our sizes span 32 D–H, 34-44 C–H. We also make custom sizes on request.
What support do we offer?
- We provide a free FitKit for you to measure your size and feel the materials your prospective bra will be made of.
- We also offer advice on the best bra for your situation.
- We guarantee our product: if something happens to a bra, we will repair it for free.
- We continuously aim to roll out new styles and invite our customers for product testing.
Where can you buy the product?
Our products are sold on our website.
We welcome questions and customer engagement – please drop us a note on [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter or follow us on our social platforms, Instagram or Facebook.
After a successful 15-year career in investment banking, Ilona started Ms Pomelo in 2016. Ms Pomelo is a lingerie company with one ambition above all: it wants fuller-chested women to live every day in the comfort and confidence of its beautiful supportive bras. The company also teaches bra health to empower women to choose well for themselves when buying a bra.