BCWA makes available temporary prostheses and mastectomy bras for women who have had mastectomy (removal of the breast). The prosthesis that is inserted into the bra on a temporary basis is designed to maintain the external appearance of the breast and to give a boost of self-esteem to the woman. Feather-light weight and softness of the temporary prosthesis facilitates comfort and ease especially when the surgical wound is still sore due to surgery and during or after radiotherapy. However, the temporary prosthesis is not ideal for long-term use as it is too light to maintain body posture and it can cause postural and back problems in the long term.
These prostheses are designed and stitched by the Thimble Thumb Team who are mostly breast cancer survivors who convene every Tuesday at BCWA. They also provide training to enable other breast cancer support groups to sew their own prostheses. BCWA staff offers advice on the modification of pre-existing bras and the fitting of prosthesis and bra. While the temporary prostheses are given free, the mastectomy bra are sold at affordable prices and offered for free to the needy.
Once again, with a donation of RM10,000 from Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur, BCWA launched a prosthesis and mastectomy bra subsidy program to supply bras and prostheses to breast cancer survivors from the lower income group. The candidates were identified by BCWA Patient Support Volunteers, and healthcare professionals from hospitals. A total of 26 women benefited from this subsidy programme.
In October 2010, Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur pledged a sum of RM7,500 towards the prosthesis subsidy programme. Women are also referred to the “Bekalan” prosthesis subsidy programme by Yayasan Kebajikan Negara that was initiated by the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development. BCWA works closely with commercial suppliers of prostheses and mastectomy bras to enable women to get good quality items.
Information and Supportive Care Materials
BCWA offers information on breast health and breast cancer, namely, coping with breast cancer, nutrition, physical activities, early detection and various reports. A library of reading and audio-visual materials covering information ranging from guidelines to narrations and rehabilitation are available in BCWA. Interested individuals are encouraged to visit the library to benefit from the wealth of information in terms of both educational and reference materials.
Hair Shaving & Wig Styling
Women with breast cancer who undergo chemotherapy may lose their hair temporarily due to the side effects of the treatment. To ease the burden of additional expenses for these women, hair shaving and styling of wigs by professional hairstylist and loan of wigs are given to them at no cost. BCWA staff members are available to assist them to find the most appropriate wig to suit them.
Once the suitable wig is chosen, BCWA staff members will bring the women with breast cancer to our professional hairstylist for hair shaving and wig styling so that the wig will look natural. Advice on maintenance of the wigs is also given. Women walk away wearing a wig, feeling relived and looking good. Due to wear and tear, the wigs are regularly replenished to ensure that they are in good condition when given to the women. In 2011, a total of 63 wigs were loaned out to breast cancer survivors.