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Breast issues

Bariatric patients are wearing the wrong bras

When measured for bra fitting all participants were found to wear wrong fitting bras
Post-bariatric participants were more likely to consider or have had breast surgery than the pre-bariatric

Bariatric patients should gain professional advice on which bra to wear to help reduce the bra-related problems these women have, according to the results of a British study. The results of the study, which assessed the bra-related health problems faced by women undergoing obesity surgery, found that current methods of bra fitting lack the consistency and fall short of addressing recurring difficulties this specific group of patients face.

Atul Khanna

“After exhaustive calculations by in a clinical environment, we concluded that no traditional bra can fit the breast shape in this group appropriately,” said study author, Mr Atul Khanna from the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, UK. “What is out there in the shops for the female public, is simply not fit for purpose. In fact I question whether any woman has ever existed, whose measurements conform to many of the large bras currently available.”

Khanna and colleagues approached bariatric support groups and collected data on age, bra size, bariatric and breast surgery, symptoms, and patients’ experience with bra fitting. Recommended bra sizes were calculated using traditional and Optifit methods, bra manufacturing data were used to calculate the dimensions and proportions of commercially-available bras.

Twenty four participants answered the survey and 21 were measured. Over 70% of the participants reported one or more symptoms (Figure 1) related to breast volume of ill-fitted bra ranging from infra mammary skin rash (50%), shoulder pain (42%) and neck pain (29%).

Post-bariatric participants were more likely to consider or have had breast surgery than the pre-bariatric (p<0.04). Physical symptoms were the most likely reason for surgery in both groups. If offered well supporting bra to solve their symptoms, those considering breast surgery are more likely to change their minds in the pre-bariatric group, compared to the post-bariatric one (p<0.04). None of the participants were offered professional bra fitting as part of the bariatric multi-disciplinary service.

Sixty-five percent of participants had at least one professional bra fitting in the past. However, inconsistency in sizes for the same brands and shops were experienced by 71% and between different brands or shops by 92% of respondents.

“The breast is actually one of the hardest organs to assess objectively: it varies in volume, width, height, projection, tissue density, composition, shape and position on the chest,” added Khanna. “As a plastic surgeon, I have to take a wide range of measurements to ensure satisfactory outcomes, whether for reduction surgery, reconstruction or aesthetic enlargement.

When buying bras, comfort was most important than appearance and fashion with an average score of 9.7, compared to 5.1 out of 10. Participants reported common patterns of problems with bra designs such as too narrow straps and sliding of the lower edge of bra (bra slide).

When measured for bra fitting all participants were found to wear wrong fitting bras. Eighty-three percent of respondents wore bands that were too tight with an average of two sizes smaller than the calculated one (p<0.002). They also tended to wear cups that were two sizes smaller than their calculated (p<0.003).

“This study cements the research which I have been working on for the last ten years, on the back of which I have recently co-created a new system called Optifit based on three measurements to define frame, depth and volume, rather than the traditional and outdated two used over the last hundred years,” he concluded. “Surgery and medicine has come far in this period, it’s time for the fashion industry to move with the times.”

The outcomes from the study entitled ‘Should the Breast Fit the Bra, or the Bra Fit the Breast?’ were first presented at the British Obesity & Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS) in January 2014.

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