ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
External breast forms are chosen by 80 percent of breast cancer patients who cannot or do not want to undergo reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy.
Where do patients in Marion County go to be fitted for these post-mastectomy prosthetics?
Until recently, the answer was Wichita, but as of July 22 they had another option closer to home-it’s Marion.
“We’re trying to provide something within Marion County so you don’t have to travel all the time,” said Margie Tajchman, customer-service representative and certified fitter for Amoena breast products at Marion County Home Medical Equipment.
“We did market research, and the closest area that is Medicare certified and does this type of fitting is Wichita.”
Tajchman, Janet Herzet and Sandra Harris completed training to be certified fitters for the 24-year-old product, which is recognized as the world’s leading brand of external breast forms and post-mastectomy bras.
Herzet is director of Marion County Home Care Services, and Harris is the radiology and mammography technologist at St. Luke Hospital.
Marion County Home Care Services, a department of St. Luke, is located on 1014 E. Melvin, next to the hospital.
Home Care Services offers home medical supplies through Banner Health Home Medical Equipment, located in the same building.
And that’s where women in the county can go to find breast forms, bras, skin-care products and swimming suits designed for a new lifestyle after breast surgery.
“Our goal is to provide our clients with whatever services they need, from start to finish, as far as supplies and any other services we can provide,” Tajchman said.
“And we want to help them through the difficult times, keep them going and help them feel as good as they possibly can.”
The three certified fitters completed an eight-hour training course November 2000 in Wichita, where they were trained by Amoena personnel and completed practice sessions.
They have received support from area physicians, St. Luke Auxiliary and Patti Carroll, who is the area Amoena representative.
Two years since the training program, the mammography room at St. Luke has been remodeled. It doubles as a mammography screening room and a fitting room for the Amoena products.
“We went to St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary, and they gave us some money to re-do the mammography room,” Herzet said.
The remodeling project included repainting the room, and putting in carpet, a table, two chairs, a mirror and a dresser for the Amoena products.
Carroll returned in June and spent two hours with the fitters, who wanted the newest information on the product as they prepared to open their doors Monday.
“We’re also planning an open house on Saturday, Aug. 10, and the times will be firmed up later,” Herzet said.
Amoena is Latin for the beautiful, the lovely.
“We want everyone who comes through here to feel comfortable, feminine and pretty,” Tajchman said.
Before a woman undergoes a mastectomy, she talks to her physician about her post-surgery options, and one of those options is a breast form.
Following surgery, the surgeon gives patients a timeline to know when they can come in and be fitted, Tajchman said.
The surgeon also offers a referral list of certified fitters.
“Then they’ll write a prescription with the order on it and bring it to us so we can provide that service for them,” she said.
“Usually six weeks is the earliest someone could come and even think about being fitted, and it probably depends on the case.”
A personal fitting session may last up to an hour, during which time the fitter listens to what the woman wants in a breast form and then offers choices.
The client can expect to try on several breast forms in order to find the one that is appropriate.
The forms can be made of silicone, foam or fiberfill and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors to accommodate various skin tones, body types, breast shapes and surgeries.
Most forms are available in ivory, tawny or blush and come in triangular, teardrop and an Amoena’s Luxa shapes.
The Amoena product line offers the first lightweight breast-form alternative with two layers that shape to the wearer. The advanced technology is pliable but holds its shape throughout the day.
Women can choose from the following forms, according to their specific post-surgery requirements:
– a prosthesis worn inside a specially designed bra to simulate the contours of the natural breast and restore balance;
– a form with a velcro attachment on the underneath surface. The velcro adheres to a complementary velcro attachment worn on the chest;
– a prosthesis with a sticky surface material on the underside, which is designed to stick to the skin. At the end of the day, a cleaner is used to scrub it, and the stickiness is revitalized. The backing is replaced, and the form is ready for use the next day;
– a partial, called Balancia shaper, for women who have had lumpectomies or breast reconstruction. It’s available in three different shapes, a range of sizes and slips into a regular bra wherever needed for a balanced look and feel.
The cost of the bras ranges from about $34 to $36, and the cost of the breast forms varies from $250 to $400.
“Medicare insurance is going to cover most of that cost, and they’re pretty lenient,” Tajchman said.
In addition to the breast forms, Amoena offers camisoles to be worn home from the hospital after surgery, brassieres, swimwear and skin-care products, Herzet said.
“The camisole-and we’re very excited about this-they have a velcro form, and you can take out the stuffing to make it the size you need,” she said. “And if they only need one form, the other one is taken out.”
A variety of sizes of bras are available for the mastectomy patients, and recent products are being offered in lacier, feminine styles.
Bras are also available for the larger-busted woman who has not had breast surgery but requires a specialty bra-a lingerie product often difficult to find in department stores.
“We’re talking “DD” and “EE,” Herzet said. “And we offer them D, E, F, G and even H rather than “DD” and “DDD.”
The swimwear is designed with longer torsos, lower leg openings and higher armholes and necklines for more coverage. And they also have bra pockets for the breast forms.
Because surgery medications and radiation therapy cause dry skin, Home Medical Equipment offers skin creams and lotions. The products are hypoallergenic and formulated to return the skin to its pre-operative condition.
Tajchman stressed that all consultations and services are private information.
“We have patient confidentiality in anything that goes on in our agency. It stays in our agency, and it’s not public knowledge.”
The three fitters are anticipating a positive future as news travels about the service they’re offering the community, they said.
“We want to let more people know it’s available-we’re ready,” Herzet said. “And if they have any questions, they can call us at 620-382-3690.
“We worked very hard to get things set up, and it’s a really good feeling for us that it’s all coming together and there’s the excitement in the community.”