Go back“The surgical techniques change the requirements”
Amoena Global Head of Silicones Development goes behind the scenes: How breast forms help after mastectomy
Helmut Wild is responsible for the development of breast prostheses at Amoena. In a recent interview, the experienced engineer for plastics technology explains how wearers’ needs differ worldwide and why he initially misjudged the potential of an adhesive breast prosthesis.
Editor: You have been developing breast prostheses for over 30 years. How has the market changed over the decades?
Helmut Wild: In terms of time, I would not want to classify that. Product development is primarily geared to the needs of breast-operated women - and they vary greatly from country to country. In the U.S., women typically prefer the feel of a weight-reduced breast prosthesis and "the lighter, the better". In Germany however, this development began later. Spaniards and Italians, on the other hand, tend to wear the standard weight prostheses.
To balance the weight of the missing breast 1:1?
Correct. In the past this was quite commonplace; today, the weight-reduced prostheses have prevailed. When balanced 1:1, women can find the weight of the prosthesis heavier than the natural side, even when supported by a pocketed bra. In addition to country-specific habits, there are also anatomically different breast sizes. Generally speaking, British and Australian women have on average rather large breasts, Asians tend to be smaller, whilst in Europe, German women are somewhere in the middle, but with a larger underbust circumference
What exactly are "weight-reduced breast prostheses"?
For weight-reduced prostheses, lightweight fillers are added to the silicone. We developed these in the mid-1990s. As a result, they can be up to 40 percent lighter than conventional silicone breast forms of the same size and shape. They are available in different versions - as single-layer or multi-layer prostheses and many of our breast forms also contain a temperature-regulating material.
The costs for the breast prosthesis are not reimbursed in every country
Are the same types of prostheses used today as they were 30 years ago?
No, and that's mainly because of the new surgical methods. Years ago when diagnostics, surgical techniques, and follow-up were not as advanced as they are today, the affected breasts often had their large pectoral muscles removed, as well as numerous lymph nodes from the armpit. The resulting tissue deficit and the scar area were very extensive, and accordingly, broad, deep areas had to be covered with the breast prostheses.
This enormously changes the requirements for the shape and size of the prostheses - at least in the medically advanced countries such as Europe or North America.
In countries like Russia or China is this different?
The medical care there is not comparable with that in Central Europe. Breast cancer patients in Russia and China often are not given the option to have radiation or chemotherapy. Mostly just the diseased breast is removed. The aesthetic result is not considered important, only survival counts.
What about the reimbursement of breast prostheses?
Very different. In developed Western countries, the cost of the prostheses is usually reimbursed. Elsewhere, women usually have to pay for this care themselves. Breast prostheses tend to be considered a cosmetic product in those countries and are not a medical necessity. Often in many African countries, only women who are financially well-off can afford a breast-balancing treatment. Fortunately, breast cancer is relatively rare in Asia. In Japan, one in 30 women develops breast cancer whereas in the U.S. it’s one in eight.
„Silicone adapts naturally to the body “
At the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned the different breast sizes. Is it more demanding to make large prostheses?
The manufacturing process is the same. The difficulty lies rather in matching the breast prosthesis and the pocketed bra. For an A, B or C cup this is usually not a problem. The care of women with larger breasts is actually a bit more complicated. But Amoena has good solutions, both for breast prostheses and pocketed bras. Our textile designers pay close attention to large sizes throughout the course of the development process.
Why are breast [prostheses] always made of silicone?
Silicone is soft, adapts naturally to the body and comes closest to the female breast in its movement behaviour. It is also extremely skin friendly.
You know the requirements of women on breast prostheses quite well. Nevertheless, have you ever been surprised by the reaction of the customers to a new development?
When we developed an adhesive prosthesis in the late 1990s, we expected a huge demand. Unlike standard prostheses, this particular breast form was developed so that women could wear it without the aid of a pocketed bra, by applying it directly to the skin. The material of the Contact breast form ensures that it adheres to the chest wall, thereby simulating the movement of a natural breast.
That sounds really good.
We thought so too – and the theory was right. In fact, many women do find the Contact breast form a huge benefit and subsequently don’t want to wear anything else. Others, however, would rather not have to tend to their breast form quite so much after surgery.
What do you mean?
If a woman wears her prosthesis in a mastectomy bra, she only has to insert it in the morning. An adhesive breast prosthesis requires a bit more effort because it is attached to the skin, which means it must be cleaned before application. This extra step means some women shy away from choosing the Contact breast form. However, those who try it get used to it relatively quickly and then become real fans or even ambassadors for the Contact. For them, cleaning the prosthesis is simply part of everyday life - like showering and brushing your teeth
The orthopedic technician and artist Sophia de Oliveira Barata designs arm and leg prostheses that are decorated with flower ornaments or rhinestones. Can you imagine something similar with breast prostheses?
Maybe in the U.S. – where women tend to be more expressive and open about their surgeries. As a rule, breast-operated women don’t require any decoration from us. But who knows; never say never.
23. October 2017
Foto: Tobias Gratz
LIght Breast Form by PW They really are very light, not like the previous version. Really pleased with my purchased.
Homemaker by Susan I purchased the Amoena Essential 3S 363 breast forms. I have worn several other brands over the last 20 years, but these are the best. They have the same feel and weight as natural breast, I love the way they move with me, just the right amount of jiggle.Homemaker by Susan I purchased the Amoena Essential 3S 363 breast forms. I have worn several other brands over the last 20 years, but these are the best. They have the same feel and weight as natural breast, I love the way they move with me, just the right amount of jiggle.
Very pleased by CC After losing a little weight my 3S Breast Form was looking too full. The 2S is perfect and the perfect weight, I always forget I'm wearing a breast form.MRS by M H VERY PLEASED WITH MY NEW BOOBS AND GREAT SERVICE
Beaucoup de légèreté by Annie CLEMENT Bonjour, J'ai acheté cette prothèse il y a deux mois. Et elle m'a changé la vie, car beaucoup plus légère que mon ancienne environ 360 gr de moins. J'en arrive à oublier que j'ai une prothèse ce qui ait appréciable.Natura Xtra Light 2SN Breast Form by FD I was getting shoulder pain with a normal weight breast form. This is definitely lighter. It is very wide but this does give wider spread than the normal breast form, and so sits more comfortablyComfortable fit by IS First fit, still using pocketed but so much better than kapok filled forms.
Comfortable by H Lightweight, comfortable. This is the 2nd one I've had & it lasted over 7 years. Why wash the form after every use as it is in a bra pocket. Only quibble seems expensive for a bag of silicone,Perfect by AT This breast form is brilliant.It is so light and comfortable that you hardly know that you are wearing inside the bra. Would definitely recommendLightweight prosthesis by F M This is comfortable and gives arealistic shape but it is only 19% lighter than my standard NHS prosthesis, so describing it as "up to 30%" lighter raised false hopes.
Comfortable by WD This may seem like a lot of money to pay for a breast form but believe me it is worth every penny. It is soft, light, comfortable and above very natural feeling. You have to wear this every day so it’s really important to buy the right one.comfortable and realistic by JS When my four year old granddaughter snuggles into me and my breast form and says how cuddly I am, I know that it feels good both for the wearer and the cuddler!Brilliant by WD This breast form is light and comfortable. The slight shaping to the side is great if you've had some lymph nodes removed as well. It flattens naturally when you you lie down . I highly recommend.
Breast form by LW Very comfortable to wear, fits nicely into bra pocket. Looks and feels natural.Amoeba breast form by MH Really comfortable fit. My first breast form was Amoena - the same as this one - and lasted for 7 years. This is the reason I purchased the same one again. So natural looking.Everyday comfort by E E I have lymphoedema and I've had a double mastectomy. This breast form has been my favourite for some time now. Drapes naturally and the lighter weight makes it comfortable to wear all day.Everyday comfort by EE Delivered promptly. This breast form is so comfortable especially as I'm a bilateral with lymphoedema. The weight and fit are just perfect. A very happy customer.