Women who have undergone mastectomies can now get new prosthetic breasts at the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.
The society is helping women who have had one or both breasts removed to be fitted with prosthetic breasts and special bras.
So far, eight women have availed of the service, and the Cancer Society is awaiting a shipment for four more women in Cayman.
Jennifer Weber, operations manager of the Cancer Society, said older women who had mastectomies many years ago were especially using the service. “Some of them may have had the operation 10 or 12 years ago and have just been stuffing their bras with rags and making do with what they’ve had. These bras and prosthetic breasts have never been available on this island before,” she said.
For women who cannot afford the $150 for the prosthetic breasts and two bras, the Cancer Society will cover the cost for those who are eligible for financial assistance, Ms Weber said.
She told of one woman who was recently fitted for and received prosthetic breasts. “Myrna [Gregson, the fitter for the Cancer Society] delivered them to her and the woman called me and was giddy with excitement.
She said she had not felt comfortable hugging people since the mastectomy because it did not feel ‘right’. She said ‘I am running around and I can’t stop hugging everyone.’ That brought a tear to my eye,” said Ms Weber.
“This does so much for a woman’s confidence and helps her heal emotionally. It’s the final stage of feeling like you are whole again and getting your life back to normal and that you can be who you are after going through this terrible ordeal,” she said.
The breasts are available in a variety of shades, colours, shapes, sizes and textures.
There are soft cloth prosthetic breasts for women who have recently undergone the operation and are still tender, while the silicone breasts for women who have fully healed are more solid but feel soft and gel-like to the touch.
The prostheses can be slotted inside bras that are specially constructed with pockets to hold the prosthetics.
And for women who enjoy swimming in this Caribbean setting, there is waterproof prosthetic that will stay in place in the water.
Ms Gregson will help women choose the prostheses that best suits them, as well as bras from a wide variety of styles and designs from an American Breast Care catalogue.
Once the breast and bra are chosen, the Cancer Society will make an online order and delivery usually takes about two weeks, said Ms Weber.
“Myrna meets the ladies and talks to them and asks them about their lifestyles… and their medical history and finds out what they need,” she said.
During that session, Ms Gregson asks about details that might influence the type of brassiere the woman should choose, such as whether they have had their lymph nodes removed which leads to numbness in their fingers, thus making it difficult to fasten a bra at the back. “So, they’ll get bras with front fastening,” said Ms Weber.
The prosthetic breasts and the bras can be stored in a hatbox from American Breast Care.
Recently, Foster’s Food Fair IGA donated 50 pink reusable bags and a cheque for more than $2,000 to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society for the project.
The donation was part of Foster’s Breast Cancer Awareness initiative that began in October when Foster’s teamed up with LIME and Evian to distribute pink bags through various promotions.
Foster’s donated the profits from the sale of those bags, along with 50 pink bags to the Cancer Society so that women can carry their prosthetics and bras home with them discreetly.
The number of women who have or have had breast cancer in Cayman is unknown as collecting data on cancer statistics has only just begun.
The Health Services Authority and the Cancer Society last year set up a cancer registry, run by Milena Conolly, who is collecting and collating information about cancer patients and survivors.
That information will help form future treatment and prevention strategies locally, as well as provide information on the prevalence of different types of cancers in Cayman.
For more information about post-mastectomy services offered by the Cancer Society, including how to get prosthetic breasts and associated bras, contact Jennifer Weber on 949-7618 or at email [email protected]
To pass cancer information along to the Cancer Registry, call Milena Conolly on 244-2560.