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What Should You Wear After a Mastectomy?

One half of pink bra for those wondering what to wear after a mastectomy

The prospect of a mastectomy is a daunting one. Whether you’re having breast reconstruction simultaneously or not, you’ve already devoted hours of your life to researching the surgical process and talking over your concerns with your breast cancer surgeon in Houston. You’ve made plans for childcare and have someone to drive you home from the hospital, but there is nothing that fully prepares a person for a mastectomy. How do you carry on life after a mastectomy?

They Aren’t Just Breasts

The reaction to having a mastectomy is unique to every woman. Regardless of your situation, your body will not look like your body anymore. The figure and form that you’ve become so used to will appear fundamentally altered, and it is okay to mourn that loss.

Women who choose to delay or forgo reconstruction after radical, bilateral mastectomies often realize for the first time just how much tissue was removed, not just from their chest, but their sides and part of their back as well. Their children can no longer lay their heads upon their mother’s chest without causing her pain. Their loss is real.

Women who choose to immediately undergo reconstruction wake up to breasts that are not the same shape, size, or texture as their own. In the case of women who have a latissimus dorsi fold, an entire muscle has been pulled from their back and wrapped around to the chest. Their breasts are swollen and scarred, nothing like what they were before. Their loss is real.

At Breast Health Institute Houston, founder Dr. Darlene M. Miltenburg guides seven hundred patients a year through this difficult process with the full realization of the emotional burden that accompanies the physical surgery. For that reason, Dr. Miltenburg structurally pairs her medical expertise with an empathetic approach to patient care. Where can patients turn after a mastectomy?

What to Wear After a Mastectomy

One of the most important steps you can take towards healing is to provide yourself with appropriate self-care after a mastectomy. Keep in mind that the surgery will severely limit the range of motion in your arms, so you should arrange to have someone to help you wash your hair after your initial surgery and then help you put it up to reduce required washes.

Self-care should also extend to your wardrobe. Not only will most of your clothes be nearly impossible to put on after a mastectomy, but they are unlikely to be equipped to deal with surgical drains and the tenderness of your post-surgery body. Both HealthiNation and Everyday Health provide comprehensive guides for dressing after a mastectomy, but here are the key things to keep in mind.

1. Front Closures and Zippers

Immediately after a mastectomy, it will be practically impossible for you to lift your arms over your head or around to your back. Therefore, make sure any bras and clothing that you wear can be completely fastened in the front without ever having to put the garment over your head. Being able to dress yourself after surgery is a very slight confidence booster, which can help you feel more like yourself.

2. Secure Your Drains

One of the uglier sides of a mastectomy is the necessity of surgical drains. They serve an important function in helping rid your body of excess fluids, which could cause swelling and deter the healing process. To help keep them in place, you can use a specialized mastectomy belt, purchase some pink pockets, or just find a nice sweater or camisole with interior pockets big enough to fit each drain.

3. Loose Clothing

After a mastectomy, your body is going to be very tender. During this time, it is best to keep fabric from rubbing against your sensitive skin by opting for looser clothing. Shirts with a dropped sleeve are especially helpful, as you won’t experience any chaffing along the side of your breast or armpit.

In addition, choose looser pants over your trusty yoga pants. You will initially experience some weakness in your upper body, so fighting your yoga pants for supremacy at the end of the day will be far more exhausting than usual.

4. Comfortable Slip-On Shoes

As Dana Donofree reminds fellow survivors, you will be on pain medication after surgery, so comfortable and secure shoes are a must. However, you are likely to struggle with reaching far enough to tie tennis shoes. Instead, opt for a loafer or other secure flat to get you through.

5. New Bras/Bralettes

Sadly, this can be the hardest wardrobe renegotiation for breast cancer patients, as it forces them to face just how much their body has changed. However, it is also an opportunity to learn to love your new body. Find beautiful, soft fabrics that make you feel good when you put them on. Avoid underwired bras, and opt for flexibles bras that give you the option to increase or decrease their padding.

Taking Control with Breast Cancer Fighting Foods

Pink ribbon on dining table for breast cancer fighting foods

We all worry about what we’re putting in our bodies. However, the rush of daily life so often gets in the way. However, when it comes to cancer, patients must engage with these decisions in a whole new way. It’s no longer a question of a healthy weight or ultimate longevity in the far-off future. When you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your diet becomes one of the few fighting tools you still have control over. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective breast cancer fighting foods.

Breast Cancer – A Personal Story from Amber

Amber was ten years old when her mother was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. It wasn’t even her first run-in with “the big C,” as she’d been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma almost twenty years prior. Even so, it was different the second time around. She wasn’t a lonely teenager anymore, living on her own. At her second cancer diagnosis, she was 34, young for a breast cancer patient. She had three little girls. Amber’s little sisters were all of three and five years old at the time, hardly more than babies.

That was the hardest part for her, explaining cancer to those tiny little girls. She ultimately allowed Amber’s father to do most of the talking. She kept trying to get the words out, but she had to keep stopping. It was as if she’d lost control of so many parts of her life too quickly.

Amber’s family needed to feel as though they could still make their own choices separate from that cancer made for them. The one choice they made that night was to laugh. It may seem callous. Amber reminisces, “You’d have to know the set of bizarrely macabre individuals that I call family to understand that likening my mother’s upcoming radical, double mastectomy to her morphing into the wife of Frankenstein’s monster was hilariously funny at the time. Laughing was our only way to avoid crying. The second choice we made was to fight in every, single way we could.”

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods

Diet and exercise are both vital to maintaining our overall health. When you have cancer, diet and exercise become key to your immediate survival. Fortunately, scientists in recent years have made progress. They have devoted considerable effort to identifying what food sources give you the best chance for beating back the beast. As a result of all their work, we know three key attributes to look for in certain breast cancer fighting foods.

  1. Antioxidants. You’ve probably heard that antioxidants help your body reduce the presence of free radicals in your system. However, you may not know exactly what that means or how it relates the cancer-fighting foods. The Pharmacognosy Review notes that your body actually does need a balance of antioxidants and free radicals to maintain “proper physiological function.” A lack of balance causes a condition called oxidative stress, which can alter the structure of lipids (natural fat cells in your body), proteins, and even DNA. These alterations make your system an easier target for a plethora of diseases, including cancer. Fortunately, natural sources of antioxidants are in a variety of foods. Teton Hospital lists kidney beans, blueberries, and even russet potatoes in their list of the top 20 sources of naturally-occurring antioxidants.
  2. Fiber. Surprisingly, one of the best preventatives to cancer is proper waste management. This can include free radicals, but can also be applied to waste estrogen as well as a wide variety of other toxins. As a result, a good helping of dietary fiber is another way you can prevent cancer. This also helps to slow its progression. Medical News Today’s professionally reviewed article notes that fiber doesn’t just keep you regular, it also bonds with excess estrogen, preventing it from coming into contact with the body. You can find strong sources of dietary fiber in whole grains, legumes (such as beans), and most fruits and vegetables. Recent research by Johns Hopkins suggests that broccoli sprouts may be your ultimate bet.
  3. Omega 3 Fats. These healthy fats are primarily found in cold-water fish, such as salmon, and their track record is pretty impressive. One study found a 20 to 35% decrease in cancer risk in subjects who consumed a significant level (8-25% of caloric intake) of omega 3s. The reason behind the success of omega 3 fats is presumably their anti-inflammatory properties. Fortunately, if you aren’t a fan of fish, both turmeric and cinnamon have similar anti-inflammatory abilities and can be easily mixed into your favorite entrées and desserts.

You Can’t Do This Alone (And that’s ok)

As much as we wish we could tell you that eating the right diet could make it all go away, we can’t. Breast cancer fighting foods make up one positive step on a long journey. The truth is, if you have breast cancer, then surgery and chemotherapy are most likely already on your to-do list. At the Breast Health Institute in Houston, Dr. Darlene M. Miltenburg knows exactly what you’re going through and can take you through the steps to reclaim control over your body as you take definitive steps toward health and eventual recovery.

Is Lumpectomy Major Surgery?

Doctor consulting stressed woman and answering: is lumpectomy major surgery?

Lumpectomy describes a procedure which removes cancer from the breast. It should not be confused with mastectomy, the partial or complete removal of the breast. Is lumpectomy a major surgery? With a lumpectomy, only the tumor and a small rim of surrounding tissue are removed. This leaves the general shape of the breast and nipple intact.

Radiation is usually given after lumpectomy to get rid of any cancer too small to be seen on mammograms. The lumpectomy plus radiation Survival rate is the same as with a mastectomy.


Candidates for lumpectomy are in the early stages of breast cancer. Lumpectomy may also be used to remove certain precancerous or noncancerous breast abnormalities.


According to the Mayo Clinic, these patients are not good candidates for lumpectomy:

  • Patients with a history of scleroderma. This describes a group of diseases that harden the skin and make the lumpectomy healing process difficult.
  • Those with a history of systemic lupus erythematosus. This is a chronic inflammatory disease that worsens under radiation treatment.
  • If you have two or more tumors in different quadrants of your breast and they cannot be removed with a single wide excision. This may affect the appearance of your breast.
  • Patients who have previously undergone radiation treatment to the breast region.
  • Those with cancer spread throughout the breast and overlying skin. A lumpectomy would be unlikely to completely remove cancer.
  • Those with a large tumor and small breasts. The chances of poor cosmetic results increase.
  • Patients who don’t have access to radiation therapy.

Lumpectomy Results

One goal of a lumpectomy is to preserve the natural shape and look of the breast. Dr. Miltenburg knows from experience that even small lumpectomies can result in significant deformities. The immediate cosmetic result can be good. But over time, radiation and scarring can cause puckering, shrinking, and dimpling. These deformities can be difficult to fix without removing the breast and starting from scratch. In the past, patients had mastectomy and reconstruction to avoid this problem.

Oncoplastic Surgery

Those asking themselves, “Is lumpectomy major surgery?” may also be asking themselves, “What are my cosmetic options?”. Oncoplastic surgery can make your breasts look better than they did before cancer treatment. Oncoplastic surgery is frequently done together as lumpectomy. You can usually go home the same day. A breast surgeon does the lumpectomy and a plastic surgeon does the oncoplastic surgery. In an oncoplastic procedure, the surgeon rearranges the noncancerous part of the breast tissue. The goal is to create symmetry in your breasts.

Scenarios for Oncoplastic Surgery

If you have a large lumpectomy, Dr. Miltenberg can use your own breast tissue to fill the cavity created by the excised lump. Your breast tissue has its own blood supply, making it a healthy and strong filler.

If you have large breasts and have breast reduction surgery, the surgeon can perform a lumpectomy at the same time. The surgeon would use the same incision.

Lumpectomy can be performed together with a bilateral breast lift. The surgeon would use the same incision.

If you have gone through lumpectomy and radiation and are unhappy with the cosmetic outcome, there is a solution. Oncoplastic surgery can resolve many issues that arise.

Houston Breast Cancer Surgeon

Is lumpectomy major surgery? Yes, that is where Dr. Miltenburg comes in. Dr. Miltenburg at Breast Health Institute Houston is Houston’s #1 Breast Cancer Surgeon. Dr. Miltenburg treats breast cancer and other diseases of the breast. She uses state of the art imaging, genetic testing, and pathology for early detection. Dr. Miltenburg provides only evidence-based treatments which leave her patients looking better than they did before. Get the best care from the top breast cancer surgeon in Houston — Contact Dr. Miltenburg at Breast Health Institute Houston today!

Mastectomy vs. Skin Sparing Mastectomy

breast surgeons in Houston

A mastectomy is the removal of the whole breast. It is usually a procedure that women need after a breast cancer diagnosis. There are several different types of mastectomy, including total mastectomy, skin- and nipple-sparing mastectomy, radical mastectomy, and a double mastectomy. Here we will discuss the most common mastectomies. If you are looking for breast surgeons in Houston, look no further than the Breast Institute Houston. With state of the art breast cancer treatment options, we aim to make this journey as painless as possible for you.

Total Mastectomy

A total mastectomy removes the entire breast. This includes the nipple, areola, and skin, as well as some surrounding lymph nodes if necessary. This surgery, while serious, does not usually require a hospital stay post-surgery. A double mastectomy removes both breasts. Our breast surgeons in Houston recommend this procedure if there is a high risk of cancer returning.

Skin-Sparing Mastectomy

The skin and nipple-sparing mastectomy, abbreviated as SNSM, is popular because it allows patients to keep most of their natural breast. The goal is to keep their skin and nipple while only removing the cancerous tissue within. The remaining breast tissue is more easily augmented and tends to lead to more aesthetically pleasing reconstructive surgery.

According to, this surgery makes more sense for women who have caught their cancer in the early stages, because it is smaller and more concentrated since it hasn’t spread. For larger tumors, cancer cells normally hide behind the nipple. This requires a higher risk surgery as there are likely cancer cells in the actual nipple.

A skin-sparing mastectomy does not come without any complications. The nipple may not adjust well to its new surroundings and shrink or become deformed. This may be due to a lack of blood supply. There may also be significantly less feeling in the nipple because the nerves have been cut during surgery.

Women with larger breasts may have improper placement of the nipple after the reconstructive surgery, so often doctors recommend this option to women who have small to medium sized breasts. Women with smaller breasts do not have as much scarring as women with larger breasts will. Although the skin-sparing mastectomy will offer less scarring than a total mastectomy, there will still be visible scarring.

Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy

is similar to the aforementioned skin-sparing surgery, however, only the nipple is left. This is only an option once the doctor has checked the nipple and found no cancer cells. If there are any cancerous cells, the nipple must be removed.

The radical mastectomy is much more extensive, where the surgeon moves the entire breast and surrounding areas, including lymph nodes in the underarm and pectoral muscles. It is not very common anymore unless there are tumors growing under the pectoral muscles. The double mastectomy is the removal of both the breasts. This is usually preventative surgery for women who have cancer in one breast, but a high risk of cancer returning in the other breast.

If you have caught your breast cancer in early stages, you may be eligible for breast-conserving surgery, also commonly referred to at BCS.

Breast-Conserving Surgery

Breast-conserving surgery is an option for women who were able to detect their breast cancer in the early stages. While this surgery is less invasive, it does not necessarily lower rates of survival if combined with radiation. BCS can be equally as successful if circumstances are right.

There are many reasons women choose mastectomies over radiation or BCS. Often women who receive mastectomies are unable to receive radiation therapy or have chosen to opt for the more extensive surgery for more mental clarity, have large tumors, or tumors that are about the same size of the breast. If you are looking for breast surgeons in Houston, reach out to Dr. Miltenburg as soon as possible.

How to Read Your Mammogram

breast mammogram in houston

Getting routine breast exams is an important task for women that is often swept to the way-side. Many people avoid going to a doctors office altogether because they’re scared of receiving bad news. However, mammograms are extremely important because they help detect breast cancer early on. Reading a mammogram is difficult and always best explained by a radiologist or your doctor. It’s important to know what you are looking for and what it may mean for your health. Here’s a better look at how you can better read your own mammogram in Houston.

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Can a Benign Breast Cyst Turn into Cancer?

can a benign breast cyst turn into cancer

According to, about 25% of breast masses turn out to be cysts. Cysts are round or oval organic structures filled with fluid. Many people think we can feel all breast cysts through the skin. Although this is true of many cysts, some are so small they are only detected with diagnostic imaging. A cyst that you can feel OR seen through imaging is a “gross cyst.” Still, some cysts are so tiny that they are virtually undetectable until they grow.

Continue reading “Can a Benign Breast Cyst Turn into Cancer?”

The Link Between Infertility Treatment and Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer and Infertility

According to, fertility treatments seem to affect breast cancer risk in younger women who succeed in conceiving. These findings are from a July 12, 2012, study by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Women whose fertility treatments resulted in conception were found more likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not conceive.

Continue reading “The Link Between Infertility Treatment and Breast Cancer”

The Stages of Breast Cancer Explained

Breast cancer affects one in four women, and it can be daunting to understand all the different stages and treatment options that are available; especially if you have been recently diagnosed. To help you through the specifics of all the different breast cancer stages and what they mean for your personal treatment plan, the Breast Institute Houston has put together an informative piece to walk you through every stage of breast cancer. Find an attentive and highly recommended breast cancer specialist in Houston when you contact the Breast Institute Houston to schedule your first appointment today.

Continue reading “The Stages of Breast Cancer Explained”

Are You Considering Breast Reconstruction?

“Today, a woman should end up having prettier breasts than she had before being diagnosed with breast cancer.” — Breast Health Institute Houston

Recovery from breast cancer treatment is not what it used to be. With breast reconstruction in Houston offered by Darlene M. Miltenburg Md, FRCS(C), FACS you will achieve the best possible aesthetic results in a caring, understanding, and informative environment.

Although breast reconstruction after a mastectomy can be a complicated and sometimes risky undertaking, Dr. Miltenburg believes all patients deserve to be considered. Dr. Miltenburg discusses surgical options with patients, regardless of age, co-morbid conditions, cancer stage, geographic location, insurance coverage, etc.

Continue reading “Are You Considering Breast Reconstruction?”

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