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Comfort After Breast Surgery, by Elizabeth Thompson, MD



Elizabeth Thompson, MD, MPH, is a radiation oncologist trained at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Harvard Hospital Systems. After many years of working as a clinician, and undergoing prophylactic double mastectomy and breast reconstruction in 2006, Dr. Thompson realized that patients need to feel cared for, comfortable, and empowered, and treated in a way that preserves their dignity. In 2011 she founded BFFL Co (“Best Friends for Life”) that makes innovative products that help patients recover from surgery and other medical treatments in comfort. Dr. Thompson shares tips for healing in comfort here:

After breast surgery as part of cancer treatment, most women initially struggle with what to wear. When I had my surgery, there was no one to ask for tips, so I started to make a list. Seven years later, the list continues to grow and take on new ideas. After surgery, you may wish to feel “normal” as soon as possible. However, fancy clothing is not better. Just think pure comfort. If something hurts, take it off.

My suggestions for healing comfortably include:

1. Front closure bras
2. Stretchy, slightly compressive undershirts
3. Zip front hoodies
4. Vests
5. Pull up yoga-style pants
6. Flip flops or clogs
7. Comfort Pillow like the Axillapilla® I designed.

Front Closure Bras

Most hospitals will send you home in a nylon 1970’s style corset bra. This is unfortunate! You’ve just had a $20,000+ operation and need something with support, comfort, and easy access during the “stage 1” recovery, when you still have drains.

Consider buying a bra like the Masthead™ Elizabeth Surgical Bra and bringing it to the hospital. This brushed backed, soft front closure bra was designed for the operations of the current age. No Velcro against your skin, openings for the drains to exit without crimping and no need for a fanny pack or pouch for the bulbs. Show your MD and then put it on!

A soft bra like our Estelle Radiation Bra is not just for radiation, it’s also a fantastic option for “stage 2” healing (after your drains have been pulled).

Stretchy, slightly compressive undershirts

Buy a couple of these to wear over your bra before or after your drains are pulled. And many women find that they sweat when they sleep and can’t tolerate anything too heavy at first. It feels good to have something snug, and I designed camisoles with exactly this in mind. Undershirts are also perfect.

Zip Front Hoodies

Buy them before your surgery in cotton or cashmere, and make these a staple of your wardrobe. Everything should have pockets, as you will love to have things easily accessible. J Crew, Land’s End and Gap tend to have great hoodies all year round.


Whenever someone says ‘vest’ I usually cringe. But vests are wonderful: breast implants or expanders can make you cold, as if you have two icepacks against your chest wall. A fleece or down vest is perfect for warmth and layering, and also hides your dressings that may make you ill-shaped and feel bulky during the first few weeks of recovery. I like ones by Patagonia and Lands End.

Yoga Style Stretch Pants

Make it as easy as possible to get you pants up and down. Don’t put on anything that is too tight. Many of today’s yoga pants have a sleek and sophisticated look, which is a plus.

Flip-Flops or Clogs

Make sure to keep a few pairs of flip-flops next to the bed. Socks are impossible to pull up and bare feet can be cold on the floor.

Comfort Pillow

Keep a small pillow like the Axillapilla® I designed with you at all times. It will help ease the pain in your axilla after your lymph node dissection or simply decrease the friction and rubbling. This little heart shaped pillow can be used as a neck support, seat belt protector, back pillow or simply a tush cush.

With all of the suggestions above, comfort should be your guiding principle. However, you can help feel good about yourself by feeling clean and groomed. Make sure to have your hair cut, colored and washed before surgery, and don’t skimp on going to a local salon to have your hair washed and dried afterwards when mobility is a challenge. It feels so good to have someone scrub your head, especially when you can’t lift your arms up to wash and style it. My best advice: go easy on yourself so you can truly heal beautifully.


Learn more about BFFL Co bras and comfort products here:

Elizabeth™ Surgical Bra 
Estelle™ Radiation Bra
Shaped Stretch Camisole


Elizabeth Thompson, MD, MPH, is a radiation oncologist trained at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Read More




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