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It’s a very short window of time from diagnosis to planned surgical intervention for a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Likely the woman is in a shock-like state from the diagnosis, and now has numerous things to schedule and plan for such as her family responsibilities, work responsibilities and, of course, what appointments she needs to make and keep for herself in a short period of time. It’s a highly stressful time.

There is an overload of information coming at her from her doctors and other health-care providers, and it’s very likely some of that information will not be completely heard or processed. As a registered nurse, I completely understand that, having dealt with patients in various health-care crises for over 30 years. Nurses generally are the ones the public has the most contact with when they are ill or in need of health care. Physicians care about their patients, but have extremely limited time to spend with each one; nurses provide the emotional and physical support, and, reinforce the health information/teaching the physicians initially provided, creating the continuum of care a woman facing a surgical intervention requires.

When choosing a post-mastectomy provider, a woman needs to consider if that provider can offer her pre-op teaching as well. What is “pre-op” teaching? Nurses always provide pre-op teaching; it includes what the individual can expect before and after a scheduled surgery. It includes explaining clearly, in terms the specific individual will understand, about incisions, drains, discomfort, what interventions to provide relief and a return to a healthy state.

Some women will have reconstruction begin immediately following the mastectomy with several steps for the reconstruction over a period of time. Many woman will not know, or recall if they were told, that they will go home after surgery with drains and possibly some incisional dressing (depending on the planned surgery) that requires aftercare.

Lymphedema is a possible side effect of breast surgery; specific, individualized instruction is given by a nurse. If needed, over-the-counter and custom-compression sleeves and garments are provided, and referrals to specialty lymphedema therapists may be made.

A unique store

The Women’s Boutique at ABC Medical Services is the only nurse-owned, post-mastectomy boutique with a full-service medical equipment and supply retail store. The advantage is the woman can be shown not only the type of post-op garments, but also incisional dressings (if needed) scar tissue reduction products,lymphedema sleeves and garments, specialty products for skin care during and after chemotherapy and radiation, head coverings such as scarves, caps and wigs, loungewear with moisture control properties, compression stockings, and, most importantly, all these items are in stock.

All the initial prosthetic fittings are done by a nurse; a nationally certified post-mastectomy fitter is also available for revisits. When I do a prosthetic fitting, I consider the woman’s daily life activities and her physique as well as numerous measurements to ensure the prosthesis fits her body size, unique shape and, most importantly, the way she lives her everyday life. For women undergoing reconstruction, specialty prostheses are selected to accommodate the changing volume.

Other post-mastectomy providers are not health-care professionals nor do they have assorted products available to try on or in stock if a woman wishes to make a purchase and take the items with her. The Women’s Boutique does and has no problem special ordering products when requested. Women have been purchasing bras their entire lives; just because a woman has had breast surgery doesn’t mean that shopping experience has to end. We attend the national fashion shows twice a year and bring in new styles quarterly so a woman can come and buy a new bra — even if it is just for a special event or date — strapless bras and lacy sexy bras are always in demand. The bras carried are on par with prices found in regular retail, some even lower due to special purchasing power.

The Women’s Boutique is the only post-mastectomy provider with on-site, in-stock products, with bras ranging from 32AA to 50F and breast prostheses in stock to accommodate any woman no matter her size, shape or ethnicity, including swim prostheses and swimwear.

Every woman is unique so going to a post-mastectomy provider that only carries a simple triangle prosthesis and one style/color of bra, or has the woman only select from a catalog, will not serve her needs appropriately. The Women’s Boutique at ABC Medical is Medicare certified, ACHC accredited and accepts many insurances. All fitters employed are individually nationally certified in their various specialties: post-mastectomy fitter, orthotic fitter, pedorthists.

More information about the Women’s Boutique inside ABC Medical Services, 3601 Ridge Road, Lansing, can be found at www.abcmedicalservices.com or at (708) 418-0008.

Provided by Deborah Parra, a registered nurse with over 30 years experience and the CEO of
ABC Medical Services