Catching breast cancer early increases your chance of surviving. Help for cancer survivors has come a long way — especially when it come to image recovery.
It's a small, unassuming place inside Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center's Cancer Institute. Inside, it's not like a doctor's office. It’s more like a boutique, or a hair salon.
"Image recovery heals the soul,” explained Kim Dalton of the Image Recovery Center. “Doctors take care of the physical aspects and fight the disease. But the patients really need to feel complete for their treatment to benefit them the most."
And there have been huge strides in image recovery. Prosthetic bras are no longer medical- feeling; they are softer. Prostheses can attach directly to the chest wall. And they don't have to be hot anymore — some come with pads you can chill in the refrigerator.
Dalton says the science is only going to get better.
"I see them coming more and more attached to the chest wall, molding more to the chest wall and just becoming lighter as we get better and better at producing different kinds of materials for them to make the prosthetics out of,” she said.
Some of the biggest strides have been made in the wigs. They come in current styles, with highlights — even with the roots showing. And they have monofilament tops, so it actually looks like your scalp when you part them.
"They're coming out with wigs that will actually be a synthetic fiber that you'll be able to curl, blow dry, set with hot rollers,” Dalton said. “Like you would treat a human hair wig, but it's a synthetic fiber.”
And in fashion, bathing suits have come a long way, along with more stylish bras — all with pockets to hold the prosthesis. The idea is to provide a sense of normalcy, of hope.
"We want them to come here and find serenity and an oasis for them to get away from it all,” Dalton added.
There are more and more of these recovery centers, and they are making a huge difference for cancer survivors. But Dalton says insurance companies have a ways to go on this front though. Most cover some of the cost of prosthetics and bras; but only about 50 percent of them cover the cost of a wig.