Essentials Breast Cancer Patients Need

What are good gifts for women with breast cancer?

What clothing and supplies do women going through surgery and treatment need?

We interviewed patients, doctors, and surgeons, took all their recommendations, and came up with a list of suggestions.

You can shop for these items right on this website, so you don’t have to scour the internet searching.

We picked out clothes we think are functional and fashionable. We found supplies and gifts that are practical and appreciated. Just click on the SHOP tab on the drop-down menu above.

What should you get? Here are the types of items our experts told us about.

Zip-it, snap-it, tie-it, button-it:

Shirts, dresses, fleeces, sweatshirts and pajamas that zip, snap, tie, or button. After breast cancer surgery it can be very painful for women to lift their arms.   

Here’s some we found:

“The key is loose clothing that buttons or zips! You don’t want to pull over your head, and you don’t want tight!”

-Alexes Hazen, MD

It’s handy to have a wide assortment of this type of clothing so post-op patients can carry on their daily lives and be able to change easily.

“Nothing is worse than trying to get out of a pullover sweatshirt. Button down in the best because it hurts to raise your arms.” 

-Dawn L.
Had lumpectomy and radiation 

Women going through treatment often have many follow-up medical appointments which require a lot of changing, it’s nice to be comfortable doing it.

Some patients say they ended up buying many different shirts for variety and loved having a selection to choose from. They had plenty of options to run to the store, take a walk or go to a movie.

“I bought so many button downs, and still tend to wear them.”

-Michele L.
Had lumpectomy and radiation

Soft, comfy, loose clothing and robes:

After surgery those areas are sore! Patients told us they didn’t want anything rubbing against healing incision sites.

Here are some suggestions:

“When going through radiation you are told to wear cotton next to your skin so as not to irritate it. After surgery, loose clothes are best so that is usually tops and pants. When going through reconstruction, you are extremely changing sizes so the same applies there.” 

-Dr. Gayle, S.O.B., Spunky Old Broad 
Survived three cases of breast cancer and now fighting number four

If radiation is prescribed, the targeted areas can become red, sensitive, and irritated. Women we spoke to said, “Think pretty loungewear.”

“Easy on, easy off shirts. Nothing that rubs, especially if radiation is involved. It burns the heck out of your skin.” 

-Jenifer D.
Had partial mastectomy with radiation, and has been cancer free for more than a year!

This kind of clothing also hide drain tubes.

Clothes with drain pockets:

Patients say it’s one of the worst parts of some breast cancer surgeries: The drains. 

After surgery, the body reacts by producing fluid that comes out of incision sites. Surgeons connect temporary tubes to the areas so it has a place to drain.

This brave woman uploaded a video on YouTube showing what the drains look like and how they work.

We found there’s some really ingenious clothing out there to help hold the drains in place.

Here are some ideas:

Patients we interviewed even came up with their own unique ideas.

“Most of my time with drains involved me being in bed recovering so they didn’t end up being necessary. I just wore big, button down shirts and if I was up or going out, we just pinned the drains inside my shirt.”

-Jayne R.
Had double mastectomy

“One of the items I found to be extremely helpful was a rectangular apron that ties at the waist with pockets for the drains, worn for 2-3 weeks, which you have to manually empty several times a day. Without it, you end up pinning the drains to your clothes which really is cumbersome, plus after a while the drains can pop open – not a good thing!

You can wear it under or over your clothing depending if you’re going out in public. Loose fitting clothing is more comfortable and can cover up bulky undergarments.”

-Jody Costello
Had double masectomy

Special bras and lingerie:

Some women told us they just went braless after breast cancer surgery.

Others say they made post-op adjustments to their lingerie. Many mentioned they ditched underwire bras.


“I can’t wear bras with underwire in them anymore and my skin is very tender still.”

-Dawn L.
Had lumpectomy and radiation

We discovered an assortment of bras that button, zip, snap and hook in the front, some have sporty designs.

Here are some examples:

“I was most comfortable in a sports bra that had just enough room for an ice pack. I iced often an wore a sports bra until well after my incision healed.”

-Laura B.
Had lumpectomy (and says besides a sports bra, her rescued dog, who stayed by her side during her entire recovery, also helped greatly)

“My radiologist suggested sports bras that close in the front and loose tops. The sports bras really were a blessing. I had brachiotherapy twice a day for a week, tubes had to be left in place from the insertion site (an open incision). I had gauze packing. It was quite bulky.”

-LuAnne Milne
Had lumpectomy with node dissection and radiation

There are entire lines of special lingerie for breast cancer patients, some even have prosthetics that slip into bra pads.

Here’s one we found on Amazon:

“If you have had breast surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy or mastectomy with reconstruction) then you will wear a loosely compressing front closure bra for the first several weeks after surgery.  

For those who have had mastectomy or mastectomy with reconstruction, you can NOT wear an underwire bra for 4 – 6 weeks to avoid any pressure on the skin.  So, the key factors in a post-surgery bra are wide, adjustable straps, soft and breathable material, and front closure.

If you have a mastectomy there are bras designed to hold a gel insert. Having a drain pouch or place to attach the drains after surgery is one of the most helpful things women can look for in their post-surgical bra.”

Katerina Gallus, MD FACS
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
Restore SD Plastic Surgery

Swimsuits:

We even found specialty swimsuits designed for women who have had a mastectomy.

And there are prosthetics made just for swimming that slip into bathing suits.

Chemo clothing:

If a woman goes through chemotherapy there are some creative clothing inventions, like shirts and tops with handy compartments to make it easier to access chemo ports.

Here’s some we found:

Blankets & wraps:

Chemotherapy is rough. The side effects can cause a patient’s body temperature to fluctuate. Our research found it’s handy for anyone going through this treatment to have wraps and blankets they can easily put on, or take off.

“My go-to gift for friends going through chemo is a really soft, plush blanket. I tell them to think of it as a hug from me every time they wrap it around their shoulders.”

-Desiree Miller

Tote it:

Women have to do a lot of traveling to doctor and treatment appointments, there’s a lot of time spent in waiting rooms, then changing rooms, it’s nice to have a cool, fun tote to lug your stuff around.

Here are some suggestions:

Fuzzy, warm socks and slippers:

Whether a patient is in the hospital, going through a radiation session, or resting at home, soft, thick, warm socks and slipper-socks just make everything better. 

Here’s some we think are cute:

Do something different:

Some women told us having to get some new clothes to accommodate their treatment and healing made them start to think outside their usual color comfort zone.

“Like many women, my fallback color is black, and I also wear a lot of earth tones because of my coloring. But when I was in treatment, I found that when I wore brighter colors, people were less frightened for me, communicated in a more energetic and positive way, and then I reacted back with a different energy. It created a feedback loop that made the energy of the interaction more positive.”

-Gari Julius Weilbacher
Had lumpectomy and radiation 
Life Coach and Author, “Our Health Journal,” which includes tools to help cancer patient
Gari Julius Weilbacher, wearing one of her new colors

Gift cards, special offers, and services:

When the medical bills add up, a gift card or prepaid house cleaning or grocery delivery is always appreciated! Click here for our page with special offers on services. 

Here is a link to our page with gifts and gift cards. Patients told us restaurant gift cards are a great way to let patients order food for themselves and their families while they’re recovering.

We want to hear from you:

If you’ve been through breast cancer surgery or treatment, and have more ideas on what’s helpful for patients, please drop us an email.

We’d love to hear from you and may share your insight on our website to help others.

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