Breast cancer: How to be comfortable in your clothes while in treatment?
Published Oct 4, 2021 • By Claudia Lima
Not only is breast cancer treatment hard on your physical health, but it can also take a toll on your mental health. Breast cancer patients often mention losing a sense of themselves and their femininity while in treatment.
One source of comfort we turn to are our clothes, but often the clothing options provided to patients in treatment are generally ill-suited or seem too "medical".
How can you combine both comfort and style while going through breast cancer treatment?
We share with you in our article below!
Today, 1 in 8 women is at risk of developing breast cancer. This year, over 330,000 women will be diagnosed.
With the arrival of the month of October, the 'Pinktober' campaign has started, an awareness campaign on the fight against and the early detection of breast cancer. This national awareness event, which grows each year, aims to raise funds for medical research, because the fight against breast cancer must go on!
When a woman has breast cancer, her life is completely changed. Many of the little things of her everyday life and routine are completely uprooted, and beyond the "standard" organization of medical appointments and medication, one of the things she has to think about is: What to wear?
Many patients are given a well-rounded plan of care including both treatment and forms of support. Though helpful, this, plus the physical and emotional side effects, can also be overwhelming. Choosing what to wear each day, however, does not have to be a headache or a source of added stress.
Side effects of breast cancer treatment
The different treatments for breast cancer include radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, surgery (partial or total mastectomy), and targeted therapies. The combination of treatments used depends on the type and spread of the breast cancer, as well as other personal patient factors.
During the course of treatment, the intensity of treatment can make patients' daily lives unbearable. Among the side effects of these treatments, some have direct consequences on the choice of clothing to wear because they cause itching, burning sensations, painful scars, hypersensitivity, and skin dryness.
The simple matter of getting dressed then becomes a new challenge: How to be comfortable, but also feel good about what you're wearing?
Each stage of treatment for breast cancer presents its own challenges, and each stage is accompanied by different problems of comfort and clothing choice for patients.
Different challenges for different therapies
This treatment requires intravenous injections of drugs for extended and repeated hours. A port, or a small reservoir with a silicone tube attached to a vein, is implanted in the upper chest. While this makes the chemo process more comfortable, its main disadvantage is that the patient must juggle comfort, modesty, and the need for warmth.
She must avoid clothing that is too tight so as not to impede access to the port, to allow freedom of movement and to reduce the feeling of constriction, especially in the abdomen in case of nausea.
A clothing tip for this case: V-neck t-shirts.
During radiation therapy
The delivery of ionizing radiation to an area to be treated destroys the cancer cells, but generates skin hypersensitivity, burning and/or peeling.
The patient will have to opt for larger clothing (usually one or two sizes larger), in a very soft material in order to minimize contact with the irritated skin. Bras may be uncomfortable, so she may decide to go without, or if she does wear one, it is recommended that it be wide-strapped and without underwire.
Dry and damaged skin requires the use of moisturizing creams and lotions that may stain the clothes worn. It is better to wear clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
Depending on the type of operation chosen - total or partial removal of the breast, choice of breast reconstruction or not - the physical consequences are significant.
The patient will often experience extreme fatigue, pain, and limited movement. For several weeks, she may not be able to move her arms, lift them above her head, or comb her hair.
In the case of surgery, the patient will have drains coming out of her chest area, so she will need to wear special bras that compress the chest and front-opening tops that allow her to take them off without raising her arms. Pajama bottoms or silk or satin pants are recommended to make it easier to move around and slide easily from a sitting position to lying down
In the hospital
Some essentials to be even more comfortable during treatment:
- Comfortable sweatpants or leggings,
- Support stockings in case of prolonged periods of lying down,
- Thick socks or slippers,
- A cap or scarf to cover your head,
- A vest or shawl to keep warm if necessary and practical to remove without interfering with the IV drip.
A growing number of accessible and adapted clothing brands
For a long time, traditional brands failed to offer women with breast cancer the opportunity to find clothing and lingerie that would make them feel beautiful and feminine while undergoing treatment.
Because breast cancer affects one of the parts of the body that make women feel feminine and therefore impacts how women view themselves, more and more female business owners are entering the market and designing specific clothing. These entrepreneurs are women affected by breast cancer, who currently have or have had this disease, or relatives of patients, and they all have a desire to help each patient have confidence in herself, preserve her dignity and her appearance, and be as free as possible in her clothing choices.
There are now countless websites, blogs, social media accounts that share tips on how to manage the side effects of treatment, the best outfits for treatment, and also advice to help women fighting breast cancer to reclaim their bodies.
More and more, the major brands are also dedicating ranges of products to these special garments.
From single- or double-prosthesis bras to asymmetrical tops, the choice of materials counts, as well as the versatility of the outfits, which need to be easy to put on and take off with breathable, antibacterial fabrics. The possibilities are widening and that's a good thing.
Here are a few brands that can help you stay comfortable but also stylish while in treatment:
- Eileen & Eva, versatile post-surgery clothing, designed and made in California.
- Care+Wear, functional healthware for all stages of cancer treatment and recovery
- Cancer be Glammed, essentials and accessories for during and post-treatment or surgery.
- Reboundwear, fashionable adaptive apparel for the during and after treatment.
- AnaOno, post-surgery bras and lingerie.
- Heal in Comfort, post-mastectomy clothing and loungewear.
- Wrapped in Love, clothing and accessories for cancer treatment and recovery.
- Garance, post-cancer lingerie and swimwear
- Oncovia, during and post-treatment clothing, accessories, and cosmetics
- Rosette la Vedette, chemo scarves, turbans, and hats
Of course, this list is non-exhaustive, many other brands exist and contribute to giving choice, support, and hope to women with breast cancer. They can live better with breast cancer.
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