Surgery is a treatment option that involves many posttreatment options for a woman with cancer to consider. Being informed about available resources, such as breast prostheses, in case a woman chooses to forego reconstruction, is important. Women can choose from different prosthesis to find one that will make her feel comfortable with her appearance.
CancerCare‘s Prosthesis Clinic is provides women with breast cancer who underwent mastectomy with appropriate supplies. The clinic’s aim is to empower women with cancer to look and feel their best. Women are fitted by a certified fitter every time they are seen and are able to leave with their prosthesis and mastectomy bras. The service is provided on a yearly basis, a maximum of 3 yearly visits, if they live in the 5 boroughs of New York. As the leading national organization dedicated to providing free, professional support services, these mastectomy supplies are available free of charge.
A bimonthly clinic provides free wigs and breast prostheses to women who are undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation and have undergone a total mastectomy.
A recent client who was fitted for a double mastectomy shared, “I didn’t know that I would react this strongly [as she was holding back her tears]. I feel whole again.” The women who visit the clinic are so appreciative of the privacy they are given and gentleness with which they are fitted. Another patient expressed that they were “very grateful to know that people care and want us to feel good and better.”
There are many resources for obtaining a free wig. Patients can speak with an oncology social worker at CancerCare for help with finding resources for obtaining a free wig by calling 800‑813‑HOPE (4673).CancerCare‘s Online Helping Hand is another helpful tool (www.cancercare.org/helpinghand). It is a searchable, online database of practical assistance, including wigs. Local American Cancer Society (ACS) chapters may also have wig services or offices that offer free wigs. In addition, the hospital where patients are receiving treatment may have a wig clinic or know of resources where a patient can obtain a wig. The need for these important services is being addressed on a local level making it easier for the patient to be properly fitted for a wig.
Though having well-fitting wigs and prostheses may seem like secondary concerns, providing these items — and a safe environment within which to learn about them — can go a long way toward helping a patient feel supported and positive about her appearance while she is undergoing treatment. At the end of the day, having an impact on those living with cancer is all that matters.
Essie Roman is the Women’s Clinical Program Coordinator at CancerCare.
1. American Cancer Society (ACS) website, www.cancer.org
2. Christ G, Messner C, Behar L, eds. Handbook of Oncology social Work: Psychosocial Care for People with Cancer. Oxford University Press; 2015.
3. National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), A Cancer Survivor’s Almanac, 1996