External Breast Prostheses: Misinformation and False Beliefs

Irene R. Healey, B Sc

In This Article


External breast prostheses are an important adjunct to the treatment of breast cancer in women. Although the majority of women wear a breast prosthesis after mastectomy, very little independent research has been done to clarify which properties in an external breast prosthesis benefit women and have a positive impact on their quality of life. Healthcare professionals are an important source of information for women with cancer and, as a result, the information they give must be as accurate as possible. Many of the claims regarding external breast prostheses, such as the need to wear a weighted prosthesis or the suitability of gel, are not evidence based, yet remain unchallenged and are perpetuated by the manufacturers, retailers, healthcare professionals, and the general literature on breast cancer. These false claims may be having a negative effect on women as they enter their post treatment life. It is clear in a review of studies that included women wearing external breast prostheses that there are, in fact, a number of complaints with external breast prostheses and that some women may be choosing surgical reconstruction because of their dissatisfaction with the limited range of available prosthetic products.

Precisely because of their noninvasiveness and cost-effectiveness, external breast prostheses can and should be subjected to more rigorous scientific evaluation than has been done to date. Research concerning the psychosocial adaptation of women after mastectomy should also include tests of the characteristics of external breast prostheses that contribute most to the optimal quality of life of women after cancer treatment. This would establish the validity of the information presently being given to women regarding prosthetic rehabilitation. Research objectively outlining the needs of women who seek prosthetic restoration would establish benchmarks that manufacturers need to achieve, and would undoubtedly result in a better and broader range of products.


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