Going Flat

After a mastectomy, many women choose to wear breast forms to recapture their pre-cancer figures. They enjoy the confidence of knowing that to the outside world they appear much as they did before their illness. But other women — particularly those who have had bilateral mastectomies — embrace the freedom of going without forms or bras. And even women who wear forms in public may go without them in the privacy of their homes.

Women go flat for many reasons. Some find mastectomy bras and breast forms hot, uncomfortable, confining, or just too expensive. Others feel their changed bodies are just as beautiful as their pre-surgery ones and see no need to camouflage their new silhouettes.

If you like the idea of going flat but feel self-conscious, try going au naturel around your home. Then try running a local errand or going to the gym without your forms. Then go on a casual outing with friends. You will probably discover that people don't notice the difference, and if they do, they may not be able to put their finger on precisely what it is. Typically, when women begin going flat, they get compliments on losing weight — although the only weight they've lost is their breast forms! Many women eventually feel perfectly comfortable going to work without forms.

Various clothing styles draw attention away from the chest or conceal its shape:

  • Fabrics with busy, irregular, not-too-small patterns keep the eye moving. Think floral and paisley.

  • Dark colors, especially black, obscure the absence of shadow beneath your nonexistent bosom.

  • Crisp shirts with strategically placed pockets shield the details of your contour from view.

  • Off-center closures or other asymmetrical features distract eyes from your chest.

  • Overshirts, jackets, and sweaters can be layered over closer-fitting garments.

  • Scarves and shawls can be draped to cover part or all of your chest.

  • Earrings and hair ornaments draw people's attention upward.

If you want to go flat but think you'd feel more natural if only you had nipples, there are silicone nipples that can be worn against the skin using adhesives. One company that makes excellent custom nipple prosthetics is Feeling Whole Again.com. The nipples created by this company are custom sculpted and painted and can be matched to the nipple on your remaining breast. They are attached to the chest using bio-compatible drying adhesives that can last for multiple days if you wish. For a non-custom alternative, a number of companies, including Amoena, make nipples in a variety of skin tones.

Some women find that the decision to go flat is part of the healing experience. Just as many survivors use the misfortune of cancer as an opportunity to take stock of their lives and explore their anxieties about mortality, you may find that the loss of one or both breasts galvanizes you to confront and even resolve long-standing body-image issues. Going flat can be part of the process of fully accepting your physical self.