Health Care

Pink Promises Restores Confidence for Mastectomy Patients

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BOARDMAN, Ohio — For women about to undergo a mastectomy or lumpectomy, their major concern is how they will feel after surgeons remove breast tissue. Pink Promises Boutique, in Boardman and Girard, is helping these women feel as though they lost nothing.

“When a woman has a mastectomy, we have to balance her out so she has symmetry and feels comfortable in her own skin again,” says Robin Ivany, owner of Boardman Medical Supply, which operates Pink Promises. “That is the most important thing.”

A mastectomy is the removal of all breast tissue while a lumpectomy is the removal of a portion of breast tissue to treat or prevent cancer.

An assortment of bras, camisoles and swimwear are for sale at the boutiques. Any woman can shop at Pink Promises, but all the items have pockets inside that allow the insertion of forms that resemble the size and feel of a breast. “When someone leaves, you want them to look in the mirror with their shirt on and think, ‘Wow! It looks like I didn’t have anything done,’ ” Ivany says.

The boutiques resemble a Victoria’s Secret store with its pink-and-black décor that accentuate the “women’s world” atmosphere. On the walls are pictures of powerful women, such as Audrey Hepburn.

“It’s a beautiful environment. It’s pretty. It’s soft. It’s warming,” Ivany says.

A first-time breast cancer patient typically comes in after being diagnosed, sent by her doctor to buy a post-operative garment. The staff looks at the patient’s medical history and the prescription her doctor wrote before helping her look for a garment.

“We educate the person on what’s going to happen from surgery and how to use a post-op garment,” Ivany says. The garment comes in several styles so a woman can choose the most comfortable. Such garments help with swelling, drainage and each has cups to help a woman feel as if she still has the shape of a breast until she heals and can buy a bra.

A certified mastectomy fitter measures and fits the woman to get the sense of what her breast shape was before surgery. That allows the fitter to match the form of her breast before tissue was removed.

Six weeks after surgery, about the time it takes to fully heal, she can return to Pink Promises to buy bras and other items that will restore balance and create symmetry. Another fitting is done by appointment to determine the form the woman wants.

If a double mastectomy is performed, she can choose to have the look of the breasts she had, or a different size. Ivany encourages women to stay within the size that suits their body frame so that they don’t look overly small or huge.

Most insurance plans cover up to 12 bras per year for each patient, she adds.

Depending on the woman, one of two types of breast forms is used. A silicone form feels very much like an actual breast, Ivany says, while a non-silicone form feels like the foam padding in a bra.

“You have to look at a woman’s body type to decide what to put that person in,” she says. “A woman who’s an A cup might choose a foam form because it’s lighter. With larger breasts we like to keep a person in something more of the weight they used to have, like the silicone, because their bodies are used to carrying it.”

Pink Promises will host fall open houses from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 11 and 12 in Girard and Oct. 18 and 19 in Boardman, Ivany notes. The events will offer fittings, set women up with the right breast forms and educate women on how the mastectomy process works, she adds.

Pictured at top: Robin Ivany holds a silicone breast form.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.