Mastectomy bra, a symbol of empowerment for breast cancer patients

May 21, 2023 - 07:57
A mastectomy bra is not only a helpful product that accommodates the condition of breast cancer patients, but is also a empowering item that reminds them to be proud and confident in their bodies.
Breast Cancer Network Việt Nam has launched its Pinkmate bra line, with bras specifically designed for breast cancer patients. – VNS Photo Việt Dũng

by Việt Dũng

HCM CITY – A mastectomy bra is not only a helpful product that accommodates the condition of breast cancer patients, but is also an empowering item that reminds them to be proud and confident in their bodies.

The Breast Cancer Network Việt Nam (BCNV) launched its Pinkmate bra line last week as part of its 10th anniversary, featuring a catwalk of women battling breast cancer and their loved ones strutting confidently in the bra. The audience’s response could only be described as going wild with happiness and pride.

Many breast cancer patients have to go through medical procedures that leave behind noticeable marks on their bodies, especially mastectomy, which removes a woman’s breast.

Breast cancer patients require bras that accommodate their condition, but lingerie is treated as a sensitive topic in Việt Nam, and many Vietnamese women have been shy about describing their breast cancer condition, leading to difficulties in finding a right bra.

People with “uneven breasts” have had to insert other types of fabric into their bras to maintain their appearance, while others have opted out of wearing a bra to be more comfortable, but then can receive insensitive remarks from other people. Their medical conditions have left them feeling uncomfortable about their own bodies.

So it is no surprise that the women at the BCNV’s event were deeply inspired by the models’ positive energy and felt proud of the models’ bravery.

“I understand the unique loss that women undergoing mastectomy have to endure, and I also really admire their bravery for removing a part of their body to keep on living," Nguyễn Thuỷ Tiên, co-founder of the non-profit BCNV, said.

Regain natural womanly beauty

The PinkMate bra line is made in Việt Nam, with bras for the general public and for breast cancer patients.

Pinkmate mastectomy bras are designed to be soft and cover up skin conditions left by breast cancer surgery, as well as soft breast pads to help wearers “regain their curves”, according to the BCNV.

The BCNV has researched and worked closely with breast cancer patients for many years to create Pinkmate bras, aiming to improve the life quality of such patients.

A mastectomy bra can be a way for women who have gone through surgeries to feel more confident about themselves. – Photo courtesy of Breast Cancer Network Việt Nam

​Indeed, mastectomy bras are not just small pieces of underwear that are more comfortable to wear; many people see them as a symbol of empowerment, a way for them to regain their natural womanly beauty, and even a companion in their journeys against breast cancer.

Ngọc Hồng, a patient in HCM City who had her left breast removed, said that her Pinkmate bra was very comfortable to wear, and the fabric helps cover up incision marks and melanoma caused by radiotherapy.

Hương Trà, another patient in HCM City and a member of the BCNV, said that bras highlight a woman’s beauty, especially when wearing a traditional áo dài (national costume).

“Mastectomy patients want a specialised bra so that they can go outside in confidence and feel beautiful,” she said.

Profits from the bra sale will be used to offer free bras to low-income breast cancer patients.

Prior to this, the BCNV had also raised funds to buy mastectomy bras from Europe for 700 low-income women in Việt Nam.

The BCNV has been helping over 2,600 breast cancer patients through a wide range of activities, including programmes to raise awareness of the disease, a library of free wigs for rent (with the help of hair donors), and activities to care for the mind and body of patients. It has been making great contributions towards raising the rate of early breast cancer detection and improving the lives of patients.

Profits from the bra sale will be used to offer free bras to low-income breast cancer patients. – Photo courtesy of Breast Cancer Network Việt Nam

'Be more open about bra'

Vietnamese culture typically considers lingerie and body parts such as breasts as “sensitive” and somewhat taboo, which leads to many people being uncomfortable with discussing them openly.

Nguyễn Phương Linh, a woman residing in HCM City's District 1, told Việt Nam News that the sexualisation of breasts led to many undeserved awkward situations, such as how she feels uncomfortable when a male doctor examines her breasts, even though deep down she knows that is normal.

Many Vietnamese women have been shy about going to doctors to check up on abnormalities in breasts or genitals, which usually leads to late detection of diseases.

The BCNV has organised a contest where participants create online content (including text posts, drawings and videos) to encourage more light-hearted and open discussion about breasts and bras.

Phương Linh said that it was important for these topics to be “de-sexualised”, as people should try to view breasts and related topics in a more open, un-sexualised way, so that more people would be less shy about them. This would result in people being able to discuss medical conditions and lingerie shopping normally.

In Việt Nam, statistics from the Global Cancer Observatory reveal that breast cancer accounts for 25 per cent of cancers in women with nearly 22,000 new cases and more than 9,000 deaths each year.

It is important to encourage people to get breast cancer screenings early, as well as boosting the morale of breast cancer patients to have more confidence in themselves.

Easy access to mastectomy bras or bras designed for breast cancer patients, as well as facilitating an open, positive dialogue regarding breast health and lingerie, are crucial in helping these people fight their battles. VNS