Effect of external breast prosthesis mass on bra strap loading and discomfort in women with a unilateral mastectomy
Background: A common complaint of women who wear external breast prostheses following mastectomy is that they are too heavy. This study aimed to investigate the effect of external breast prosthesis mass on bra strap loading, discomfort and perceived pressure in women with a unilateral mastectomy. Methods: Pressures exerted at the bra strap-shoulder interface and ratings of discomfort and perceived pressure (visual analogue scales; 0-12 cm) were recorded for 17 women (mean 68 (SD 5.7) years) who had a unilateral mastectomy. Data were collected during standing and walking while the women wore a Lightweight prosthesis and Standard-weight prosthesis. Pressure, discomfort and perceived pressure between the two prosthesis conditions were compared using Wilcoxon Signed Ranks and the sum of the pressure values during walking and standing were correlated with discomfort and perceived pressure scores using Spearman's Rho tests. Findings: Mean peak bra strap pressures were significantly less when the participants wore the Lightweight prosthesis compared to the Control prosthesis during walking (0.28 (SD 0.14) N/cm2 versus 0.35 (SD 0.20) N/cm2; P < 0.05) but not during standing. No significant main effect of prosthesis mass on the participants' ratings of discomfort or perceived pressure were found, which were highly variable. Interpretation: Reducing external breast prosthesis mass decreased mean peak bra strap pressures during walking but this was not accompanied with reductions in bra strap-shoulder discomfort or perceived pressure. Treatment strategies to decrease bra strap-shoulder interface loading due to external breast prostheses mass could assist women who complain of prosthesis heaviness during physical activity.