Most young and gorgeous 30-something celebrities are splashed across the covers of tabloid magazines when they go through a break up, make a fashion faux pas, get plastic surgery, or ink a Cover Girl endorsement. But TV personality and host Giuliana Rancic has been in the news lately for another reason. She announced she is battling the early stages of breast cancer at the age of 36. Shortly after making that announcement on NBC’s TODAY Show and undergoing a lumpectomy, Rancic returned to the morning news show to share with viewers that she plans to undergo a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction.
Since then, I’ve received several letters inquiring about my thoughts on what Rancic will face after her life-saving surgery, adjusting to her new breasts. I actually tackle this topic in depth in my book, The Bra Book (BenBella, 2009), and have written several articles in the past on the advancements of breast reconstruction surgeries over the past few years.
Unfortunately, most of us know someone like Rancic who has had to undergo a breast removal procedure, or a mastectomy. This is usually done as a treatment for (or in some cases for the prevention of) breast cancer, which 1 in 8 women will get in her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.
Here are my tips for Rancic as she moves into this new phase of her life:
Post-mastectomy bras are usually made of soft, breathable cotton and are adjustable to keep from irritating the surgery site. A post-mastectomy bra should not only be comfortable for sensitive and sore breasts, but also be easy to move in and help boost a woman’s confidence after such a life-changing experience.
Some companies are even going that extra step to make these post-surgical bras more comfortable for women. Amoena's Hanna Collection is one of the industry’s first to offer camisoles and bras infused with Vitamin E and Aloe to ease discomfort and promote healing after breast surgery. The company also has trained fit specialists on hand to help breast cancer patients find the best bra to meet their needs, which you can find at Amoena.com.
Vera Garofalo, post-mastectomy expert and program manager of Hope's Boutique at the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Insitute in Dublin, OH, strongly recommends visiting a "certified" mastectomy fitter, and I often get questions from women on how they can find one in their area. This website offers a free searchable database. Such a fitter can help Rancic as she recovers from her surgery and beyond.
Meanwhile, here are some general tips when shopping for a post-mastectomy and reconstruction bra:
1. The band of the bra should hook so it fits comfortably snug. Just like with regular bras, the recommendation is to fit on the middle hook to accommodate for the fabric stretching over time. You should be able to comfortably insert two fingers under the band.
2. The straps should be adjusted so that each breast is held securely and at a comfortable level. Straps should fit snugly without cutting into the shoulders; you should be able to get one finger under the strap. You may want to opt for padded straps for added comfort or look for separate strap padding that can be attached, like Fashion Forms' Comfy Shoulder. Rancic may experience some breast asymmetry post-surgery or the implants could feel heavier than her natural breasts (especially with swelling) so adjusting the straps are crucial for achieving symmetry between the two breasts and keeping the prosthesis secure. Proper strap adjustment also provides balance and support, important for alleviating back discomfort and dropped shoulders.
3. The cup should fit smoothly and completely cover the breast tissue and neatly cover the surgical area. It should hug the chest without any gaping for optimum comfort.
Of course, none of this information should replace the advice of your physician. Any and all options and care for post surgery should be discussed with and monitored by your doctor.
And remember, if you are over the age of 35 and especially if you have a family history of breast cancer; ask your doctor if it’s time for you to have a mammogram. It's also a good idea to do self-exams at home so you can feel for any unusual lumps and bring them to the attention of your doctor. Early detection saved Rancic's life and could save yours too.
Our thoughts and prayers will be with Rancic and her family during this difficult time, and we wish her a successful surgery and speedy recovery.