Natural-looking breast forms are giving breast cancer patients additional options following a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

“If a patient doesn’t want any reconstructive surgery, they would first get a post-surgical soft form that they’d receive at the hospital, and once they are healed they would qualify for a permanent prosthetic,” said Jodi Appleyard, a certified mastectomy fitter at Walnut Medical Services, 226 Main St., downtown Johnstown.

The breast form, also known as prosthesis, comes in a variety of materials, including silicon gel, foam and fiberfill.

“The main purpose is to get it to feel exactly like a natural breast,” Appleyard said. 

“Replacing that weight and size can make a difference on your stature.”

While some breast forms slip into compartments sewn into specially designed bras and camisoles, others can been worn without a bra. They attach to the skin either with adhesive patches or magnets secured to the skin with adhesive.

“They are made of different materials and have different features for each one,” Appleyard said. 

She said the silicon prosthesis is lighter than its predecessors – making this option more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

“In the last nine years that I’ve worked here, I’ve seen a jump in the technology,” she said. “The company we order from has developed its ‘comfort plus technology,’ which means it stays cool or warm when needed. With some of the older prosthetics, if you had one on you’d have a tendency to sweat behind it.”

Appleyard said with the improvements in prosthetics, many women – especially those who are active – have noticed a difference in the feel and comfort.

“They may jog and or work outside a lot and don’t notice that it’s there as much because it feels like a part of them,” she said.

There also are prosthesis to match the remaining breast after a mastectomy or partial forms for women who have had lumpectomies that left a breast misshapen.

Appleyard said a majority of insurance companies cover the cost of prosthetics and mastectomy bras. 

“Most insurances will pay for one or two prosthetics – depending on whether you have a bilateral or unilateral mastectomy – every two years, but they do tend to last longer than that so the need to have it replaced, that often isn’t always there,” she said. “Most cover two mastectomy bras every six months.”

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.