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Meeting Changing Breast Cancer Patient Needs ~ Amoena

May 21, 2014

By Elisabeth Dale

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Despite all the breast cancer “awareness,” there’s little discussion about how modern breast cancer treatments impact a woman’s day-to-day life, especially when it comes to post-surgical intimate apparel. Too often there’s an assumption that the end result of a breast cancer diagnosis a new set of perkier boobs. But that over-simplification is at odds with the reality of today’s breast cancer treatment options.

Some patients have immediate breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Others must wait and go through multiple surgeries over the course of months, or even years. Not everyone who has breast removal surgery is eligible (for any number of medical reasons) for breast reconstruction. A woman might have one reconstructed breast, and then must have her healthy breast cosmetically altered to match. Many women undergo lumpectomies, where only a portion, but not all, of her breast tissue is removed. Every woman’s case is unique, as are the aesthetic results. This adds to the complexity of creating stylish and well-fitting post-breast cancer lingerie.

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Which may be why there are so few companies specializing in this niche foundation market. It’s not as simple as adding a pocket to a bra to hold a breast form. Foundations must accommodate different shapes and types of exterior forms and internal implants. Reconstructed breasts don’t sit or move the same way as natural breasts. There can be multiple surgical sites and sensitive scar tissue to consider. All these fitting challenges could explain why lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret passed on creating a post-mastectomy bra, even when publicly pressured to do so.

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One company that has evolved to meet the changing needs of breast cancer patients is Amoena. Founded in 1975, its original focus was on making a better breast form. Back then, there was only one surgical option for women diagnosed with breast cancer: the disfiguring radical mastectomy. And Cornelius Rechenberg, motivated by his own mother’s breast cancer treatment, set out to create a more natural looking breast prosthetic. The revolutionary silicone breast form was the start of a new company, Amoena.

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For years, Amoena concentrated on the prosthetic side of the business. They slowly moved into pocketed lingerie, swimwear, and products to help women achieve greater symmetry after lumpectomies. They added sensual styles of intimate apparel, with the Seduction line. Last year, in response to consumer demand, Amoena introduced ready-to-wear active wear and sleepwear.  The company has evolved from a single focus on breast prosthetics, to embracing all aspects of the post-breast cancer experience. They’ve even extended this support by publishing a magazine dedicated to the wellness, lifestyle, and fashion issues of breast cancer patients.

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I spoke with Malissa Magyar, head of global marketing for Amoena, about the challenges of creating intimate apparel for breast cancer patients.

The most important part of the business is insuring correct bra and prosthetic fit. If the majority of healthy women find it hard to buy an everyday bra in the “right” size, imagine adding physical pain and scars to the equation. To better serve its retailers and customers, Amoena established an 8-hour bra-fitting course. But that’s just the first step in learning the intricacies of post-surgical fittings. One must also put in 500 hours, working with another experienced fitter, before certification. In addition to a growing design and manufacturing business, Amoena conducts about 50 such training sessions per season, all over the world.

According to Magyar, another obstacle is the traditional way post-surgical garments are sold. Insurance reimbursements can be an issue, vary by country and from state-by-state. A breast form and pocketed bra might be considered a needed medical device, but where do pocketed swimwear, comfy t-shirts, and pajamas fit into the picture? Fashions that contribute to overall wellness and recovery aren’t sold in more clinical medical settings. And insurance concerns can limit patient purchases to only what is covered. There are currently 1800 Ameona retailers in the United States, and the brand is available in all Nordstrom stores. But not every retailer carries the same inventory.

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An additional difficulty is a general lack of knowledge about post-breast cancer life. Women don’t understand that they may not be able to go back to wearing their former intimates after treatment. They may not know what’s available or where to buy new garments. Lingerie choices do seem trivial compared to the more complicated medical decisions patients, and their families, must face. But the issue is an important one and plays a role in patient recovery. Soft fabrics, styles that cover and protect scars, and prosthetics that create breast symmetry allow women to reclaim and return to more normal lives. “It’s about rebuilding outward confidence,” says Magyar.

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That’s no small number of women to serve, at least in the United States.  In 2010, there were over 2.8 million women living with breast cancer. Another 230,000 women are estimated to join those ranks in 2013. Contrary to popular belief, it is not early detection, but more sophisticated treatments that have increased the survival rate of those diagnosed with the disease. Advances in surgery, drug treatments, and radiation have reduced the overall death rate for some, but not all types of breast cancer. What scientists have learned about breast cancer is that it is more than one disease, and some forms are deadlier than others.

The World Health Organization predicts a 57% rise in all cancer rates over the next two decades. Breast cancer incidence will likely go up, even as new drugs and therapies are introduced to extend lives. Women will need, and want, foundations that fit their unique, altered bodies. Amoena’s expansion beyond breast forms and bras seems a small but important way to improve the lives of those living beyond breast cancer.

What’s your view? Were you aware of the various foundation challenges of post-surgical breast cancer patients? What do you think of Amoena’s new intimate apparel, swimwear, and active wear styles?

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Will Affordable Care Act Change Nursing Bra Design?

December 16, 2013

By Elisabeth Dale

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It’s hard to imagine that a medical insurance plan could change the way nursing bras are designed. But the Affordable Care Act, in an effort to increase overall breastfeeding rates, may lead the way. Why? Because new mothers will have greater access to expensive ($250 and up) but more efficient electric breast pumps. And nursing bras that make it simple to latch on to baby or a breast pump could be the next best bra solution.

Breast pumping bras have been around for a few years. Brands like Simple Wishes and Pump Ease have created a convenient way for lactating mothers to keep breast pumps attached to their chest, leaving their hands “free” to do something else. They are not “bras” in the traditional sense, and some simply adapt a woman’s existing nursing bra. But they are useful and necessary for those who use a breast pump, which turns out to be any new mother who can’t be with her nursing baby 24/7 but wants to maintain her milk supply. Even breast pump manufacturers, like Medela, offer their own version of a “hands free” bra.

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The standard nursing bra has changed over the last decade. Some brands like Hot Milk, Cake, and You! Lingerie offer new mothers feminine and flirty designs. Others have introduced more efficient nursing clips, innovative fabrics, and flexible wires that better adjust to expanding and contracting lactating breasts. But the focus has been on baby and a more stylish, comfortable mother. It’s not the functional relationship between a new mom and her electric breast pump. A woman must remove, or add another “bra,” to do one or the other task.

Now with the Affordable Care Act, women will have part or all of the cost of an electric breast pump covered. Demand for these medical devices is already on the rise and suppliers are working to keep them in stock. Under existing laws, employers are required to provide workers with a private room and unpaid break times for pumping. A nursing bra that works with or without baby may be the best solution for these women.

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A new hybrid nursing/pumping bra has been developed and is now on the market. The Dairy Fairy Arden bra supports both breastfeeding functions, whether it’s baby or pump. Simple Wishes is also close to launching a new combination nursing and pumping bra. It could just be a matter of time before major lingerie industry brands come out with their own models.

What do you think? Will changing breastfeeding patterns or increased use of breast pumps change the way maternity and nursing bras are designed?

 

 

 

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Missing the Mark: October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns

November 4, 2013

By Elisabeth Dale

breast-cancer-flyer2How do you make decisions regarding your breast health? Do you schedule an appointment to talk to your doctor or keep up with the latest medical research? Would a social media breast cancer awareness campaign guide your actions? This October exposed some new and unusual methods of getting women to focus on their breasts, turning to social media to get their message out. They introduced catchy hashtags, produced humorous and funny videos, and tapped into the viral nature of photo sharing websites.

First up is a “Tweeting Bra,” created by an advertising agency. This unique piece of lingerie, worn by a popular female celebrity, tweets out a breast self-exam reminder each time it’s unhooked. Another Instagram-inspired promotion introduced #Mamming, an exercise … Read more

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What Defines Real Breasts? Curvy Kate’s Star In a Bra Challenged

October 1, 2013

By Elisabeth Dale

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Curvy Kate, the brand that brings sassy style and fit to the D-K crowd is under fire for their “Star in a Bra” contest. Some wearers of this popular and well-liked bra brand aren’t happy that contest rules specifically exclude women with breast “enhancements.” And, according to the blogosphere, this rule applies to any woman who has had breast surgery, be it reduction, reconstruction, or lift.  Curvy Kate has responded to criticism by asking for input and may consider revising the rule.

But should they? Some believe Curvy Kate is right to make this breast distinction. After all, the brand was created to celebrate the regular, full-busted female body. It’s falsely assumed that many naturally larger breasted women are that size … Read more

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Bra Sizes and Bigger Breasts: Where’s the Science?

August 12, 2013

By Elisabeth Dale

Recent survey results from bra retailer, Intimacy, revealed that American women are wearing bigger bras than they did 20 years ago. The average size reportedly jumped from 34B to 34DD. Media outlets covered this news with headlines such as “breasts getting bigger,” or “America’s cups runneth over.” It was shocking to think that women’s busts had tripled in size. But is it true? Or could women, thanks to a booming lingerie industry, have finally opened their eyes to their correct bra size? What are the facts?

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This isn’t the first time that larger bra sizes have been in the news. Some think it’s linked to the soaring rates of obesity. Plus size bra offerings have expanded over the years. But while … Read more

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Does The Lingerie Industry Let Women Down?

July 8, 2013

By Elisabeth Dale

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There’s a growing segment of the female population ignored by the intimate apparel industry. They desire beautiful and stylish quality intimates, are savvy consumers, and have the necessary disposable income to buy what they want. So what’s their problem? They, like me, are women 50 years of age and older.

I understand why lingerie and swimwear models reflect the attributes of youth. Perky breasts, tight skin, and flat abs make great backdrops against a beach or bedroom. But intimate apparel is also focused on a younger demographic fashion style, whether it’s the cut of the garment, color, or girlish embellishment. It seems best suited for shapes decades away from the effects of gravity.

Brands have stepped up the style and sexy factor … Read more

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Your Bra Size Matters Less Than You Think

June 24, 2013

By Elisabeth Dale

The Jockey Company introduced a “revolutionary” new bra sizing system a few weeks ago. Why? Because experts agree that 80 percent of women wear the wrong size bra. This is thought to be due, in part, to the inadequacy of the current antiquated measuring tape method of determining bra size. But does it even matter? What if women wear the “wrong” size bra for all the “right” reasons?

Jockey sent me their new Fit Kit and gave me the opportunity to try one of their bras, free of charge. I had nothing to lose and every woman’s dream to gain: a new and well-fitting bra. The kit turned out to be a set of 10 different size plastic cups plus a measuring … Read more

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Elisabeth Dale

Breast Briefs

 

 
Elisabeth Dale is an internationally renowned breast expert and author, and the founder of www.TheBreastLife.com. She has appeared on Good Morning America, The Tyra Banks Show, BBC World News, NPR, and has been featured in The New York Times, Cosmo, Glamour, Men’s Health, and the Sunday London Times.
 
In her book, bOObs: A Guide to Your Girls, and on her website, Elisabeth entertains, educates and encourages AAA through KK cups to learn more about their bodies and support the changes their breasts go through from puberty to motherhood and menopause.
 

 
At TheBreastLife.com, women can bare and share their intimate feelings and stories about their bodies (mammoirs), and experience a safe haven to explore new and innovative products, services, clothing, and surgical options. You can visit www.TheBreastLife.com to find the best breast gear and garments that have earned The Breast Life Seal of Approval from a trusted community of product testers, and share your finds and feelings with an active community of other smart, stylish and interested women.