Help University of Wollongong make comfortable breast prosthesis

PROSTHESIS RESEARCH: Breast Research Australia (BRA) is looking for participants to take part in a study aimed at creating a more comfortable breast prosthesis.
PROSTHESIS RESEARCH: Breast Research Australia (BRA) is looking for participants to take part in a study aimed at creating a more comfortable breast prosthesis.

Breast cancer survivor Kristen MacDonald felt like a ‘’whole woman’’ again the first time she wore a prosthesis.

But she still remembers the ‘’immense’’ grief, pain and discomfort she felt before getting to that stage.

That’s why the 51-year-old mother of two is all for University of Wollongong research looking to create a more comfortable breast prosthesis.

Breast Research Australia (BRA) at UOW is aiming to improve the quality of life of women after breast cancer surgery.

Dr Deirdre McGhee said about 90 per cent of women who have a mastectomy (breast removal) use a breast prosthesis.

These prosthesis help to restore self-image and femininity of these women, but they are also reported to be uncomfortable to wear.

‘’Considering women may wear their prosthesis for 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week, this discomfort can have a significant negative impact on their lives,’’ Dr McGhee said.

COMFORT: Kate Mikilewicz, a research student with Breast Research Australia,  University of Wollongong, is researching the biomechanics of breast protheses.

COMFORT: Kate Mikilewicz, a research student with Breast Research Australia, University of Wollongong, is researching the biomechanics of breast protheses.

‘’BRA are currently conducting pioneering research on the forces that breast prostheses have on the body, aiming to improve their design and the comfort and quality of life of women who use them.’’

Mrs MacDonald, who had a mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection in 2007, welcomed the research.

‘’The BCNA (Breast Cancer Network Australia) give you a free soft prosthesis when you leave the hospital, which is a very good thing. But then after that it is really hard to find bras and prosthesis to make you feel whole again,’’ she said.

‘’I know the first time I found I could wear a proper prosthesis, you do feel more like a whole woman again.

‘’You get your sense of femininity again. It really was a healing process for me.

‘’But because I also have lymph nodes in my arm and have to wear compression garments all day, finding a correct fitting prosthesis is also important for my neck and shoulder.

‘’I struggled at first going to various retailers in the city [Sydney] trying to find the right fit and to be comfortable. I was lucky enough to meet Lily De Santis, who is a brilliant prosthesis fitter and bra fitter.

‘’But it is very hard for people to find the right person to have the skills that she has to find the right prosthesis and the right bra. To spend the money on the very expensive imported bras, it’s still very hard to get comfortable ones.’’ BRA researchers are specifically interested in talking with women who have had a unilateral mastectomy and wear a breast prosthesis.

Email Kate Mikilewicz at klhm992@uowmail.edu.au or call 0458 466 005.