Politics and Society
Flesh tones in prosthetics
Breast prosthetics are now available in flesh tones suitable for Cancer survivors of colour. Until recently, realistic skin colours for all women who have undergone mastectomies were not available. Women of colour have had to endure post-treatment life with softies in pale skin tones.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis precedes gruelling treatment that includes major surgeries and arduous medical regimens. For people with early stage breast cancer, a mastectomy is one treatment option, the surgery removes all breast tissue to prevent, treat or stop the spread of breast cancer.
Many people who have mastectomies recover well and can undergo reconstructive surgery to recreate the breast and help them regain physical ‘normalcy’. Outside of financial restraints that are very common due to poor healthcare systems, other people cannot receive reconstruction after their mastectomy because the incisions are not healed and or the breast cancer therapy is not complete. Whether it’s about taking time to source funds or because the body is not ready, delayed reconstruction can happen months or even years after the mastectomy.
During that in-between period, and for some, as a permanent solution, women use external prostheses inside their clothing to create the breast shape. A prosthesis can be worn against the skin, inside the pocket of a mastectomy bra, or attached to the chest wall. Most of them are made from soft silicone gel encased in a thin film (which is why they are also referred to as softies) and moulded to look as natural as possible. The outer surface feels soft and smooth and may include a nipple outline.
Why are breast prostheses (‘softie’ or ‘cumfie’) necessary?
The resulting trauma from cancer treatment can be debilitating. Post-treatment therapies are supposed to help patients stabilise and navigate their new normal. Prostheses help restore women’s self-confidence physically, psychologically, and socially thus improving their quality of life.
Breast prostheses also improve balance, posture, and shoulder drop, which can occur due to the imbalance of weight for people with a single or unilateral mastectomy.
Veronica Parke, 64, from London who was interviewed by the BBC said, “I was too ill to have my breast reconstructed immediately after surgery, and I thought having a softie would compensate.
“However, the product I was initially offered, which was as pale as can be, didn’t match my skin tone, so I didn’t use it. This affected how I dressed, and I wore everything loose so people couldn’t see my shape.
“After a mastectomy, you can feel disfigured, and you want something that helps you feel normal again.
Flesh tones in prosthetics
Prostheses should mimic real human skin, with actual depth, tone, and detail to match each person’s flesh tone. Unfortunately, most available flesh tones often exclude people of colour. Those who are adamant must pay exorbitant prices to get a proper colour match- making a luxury for somewhat is easily accessible for others. But this is changing.
Lingerie and hosiery company Nubian Skin has developed, in partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the UK’s first softie covers to cater to women of colour. The pilot that was funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity has a new range of covers that come in seven sizes of four colours: berry, cinnamon, caramel, and café au lait.
In a press release, Ade Hassan, MBE, the founder of Nubian skin, said: “Breast cancer is a disease that has affected my family and family members of the Nubian Skin team, so when I was approached by Natalie about this project, I knew instantly that I wanted to help in any way that I could.”
“It has been an honour… to create these softies, and to help in a small way in the recovery of the women who are dealing with an often life-changing diagnosis”.
Speaking about the new options, Veronica added, “I wore the new softie it for the first time when my daughters took me out for a birthday meal. It was lovely being able to wear clothes more my size as the softie blends in so well with my skin tone.”
Nubian Skin plans to make them available to all individuals and medical institutions soon.
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