After healing from a surgical procedure such as a mastectomy, you may be wondering if an activity like swimming is safe to do. Here, Barbara DePree, MD, gives her expert advice on whether you can take a dip in the pool this summer after having mastectomy.
Q: I’m healing from a double mastectomy after breast cancer. I’m opting against reconstructive surgery and I’d love to swim again, but I feel self-conscious in my old suits because they don’t fit me up top. Are there other options for me?
A: Absolutely! You’re certainly not alone: Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women and there are more than 3 million survivors. When faced with the personal decision of undergoing reconstructive surgery after mastectomy, many women are opting out. In fact, a study in JAMA Surgery revealed that 58 percent chose not to pursue it.
As long as your surgeon clears you and your wounds are fully healed, you can confidently enjoy swimming again, and you have many bathing suit options. Some suits (like those available at Jodee.com) have pockets to accommodate prosthetics, or breast forms made from soft lightweight foam or heavier silicone material. Or, if you don’t want to wear breast forms and choose to go naturally flat, you may opt for a post-mastectomy swim top with ruffles or a blouson style to create volume around the bust. You can find these at brick-and-mortar stores like Target or specialty online retailers like MastectomyShop.com.
You may also want to consider a pair of Knitted Knockers (available at KnittedKnockers.org). The soft, comfortable and lightweight prosthetics made of cotton or acrylic yarn knit are provided free of charge for breast cancer survivors and can be pinned or loosely stitched inside your current bathing suit or placed in a prosthetic suit. Knitted Knockers are custom-made by volunteers and are comfortable when worn against scarred, sensitive skin — these may be especially helpful in the early days of your recovery.
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Barbara DePree, MD, is a gynecologist in private practice and director of Women’s Midlife Services at Michigan’s Holland Hospital. A Certified Menopause Practitioner, she is the founder of MiddlesexMD.com, an educational resource for women’s sexual health in perimenopause and beyond. To ask her a question, send an email to email@example.com.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.