Push for more breast cancer awareness across Limestone Coast

HEIGHTENED AWARENESS: Bare Necessities Lingerie owner Sharon Tuffnell encourages all females to be properly bra fitted and regularly screened not just during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but through the whole year. Picture: MOLLY TAYLOR

By Molly Taylor

ALTHOUGH October is marked as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is an every day discussion point for Mount Gambier resident Sharon Tuffnell during her daily line of work.

Breast cancer is Australia’s most common cancer affecting women, with an average of 55 people affected every day.

In 2020, it is predicted 19,998 women and 170 men would be diagnosed with the life-changing disease.

Since establishing her business Bare Necessities Lingerie over 30 years ago, Ms Tuffnell has become a passionate spokesperson for breast cancer and all relevant topics.

Although she believed it was great there was a time dedicated to heightened awareness raising, Ms Tuffnell said breast cancer did not discriminate and could strike at any time of the year.

“Breast cancer does not unfortunately target just October,” she said.

“Ladies are diagnosed with breast cancer sadly every day.”

Ms Tuffnell said she suggested awareness could be raised not only during October, but every day of the year during routine conversations.

Working closely with Limestone Coast breast cancer nurses, Ms Tuffnell said herself and her employees worked with all clients to make sure they were fitted with the best product possible.

“Whether it is post surgical or not, every customer which walks through the doors is treated equally and with care and compassion,” she said.

“We work closely with each customer as well as our local breast cancer nurses to make sure we choose the right product for each person.”

Ms Tuffnell said having the right fitting bra is important for every woman, not just those who are or have been through cancer treatment.

“We do bra fittings all the time … the first sign a bra does not not fit properly is if it is uncomfortable,” she said.

“It is important to be fitted to make sure you are wearing the right size bra and if everybody understood, they would realise why the wire dug into them or their lace scratched them.

“It is all about regular fittings, replacements and how you look after them.”

Ms Tuffnell said she recommend all women to be be fitted every 12 months or when a bra does not feel it is fitting correctly.

“As we all know, we fluctuate. Some ladies may have different sizes when fluctuating as well,” she said.

“The main choice is between underwire and non-underwire and there is often a swing back to non-underwire. This is probably ideal for those who fluctuate a lot or if you have had any treatment.

“For different reasons, some people like it with or without, there is no right or wrong.”

Ms Tuffnell said there were many products which were specifically made for those who had been through treatment.

Amoena recently released its new Adapt Air Breast Forms earlier this year, a re-design of its previous traditional breast form.

Ms Tuffnell said the newer design was possibly more suitable for females with protruding or uneven scaring.

“Traditional breast forms sit against the skin, but the new design can adapt with the injection of air and mould around it,” she said.

“It forms a much closer contact to the chest wall and it is much less weight.

“It took four years of developing and two years of trial to put them on the market.”

Ms Tuffnell said the general feedback was the new form felt more natural and not like an external prosthesis.

Due to COVID-19, Bare Necessities’ regular come and try day had to be cancelled due to representatives from Melbourne unable to travel to Mount Gambier.

“Ladies do not have to be due to buy one, but usually they can try it and they know when they are due for their next breast form they can move into it without a problem,” she said.

Every two year Medicare offer a $400 rebate for breast form purchases.

Ms Tuffnell said she had positively witnessed breast forms give her clients confidence.

“You see ladies come in who are quite often self conscious, wearing a scarf because they want to cover difference,” she said.

“Then after they are fitted, they will go out with the scarf over their arm.

“There is also the option of partial breast forms for those who have not had a full mastectomy, which is equally as important.”

Ms Tuffnell said Bare Necessities Lingerie offered bra fittings five and a half days a week and encouraged all females to be properly fitted.