First softies in range of skin tones for breast cancer patients

Thanks to funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, The Royal Marsden launched the UK’s first softies available in a variety of skin tones.

Last year, following funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, the UK’s first softies in a variety of skin tones were launched by clinicians from The Royal Marsden in partnership with Nubian Skin.

What is a softie?

A softie is a lightweight, fabric prosthesis that women with breast cancer are often given to wear in their bra after a mastectomy. Some women use a softie temporarily – before reconstructive surgery or before using a permanent silicon prosthesis. However, many women use their softie long-term, as they can be more comfortable than other options.

Despite their wide use, a survey of 100 women of colour by Black Women Rising revealed that nearly three quarters (74%) of those who use a softie, prosthetic breast or nipple were not offered one to match their skin tone.

Natalie, Sarah and the softies
Natalie Johnson (left), Sarah Adomah and the softies

More inclusive covers

Following these results and feedback from patients, Natalie Johnson, a Breast and Oncoplastic Surgeon, and Sarah Adomah, Lead Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist at The Royal Marsden, approached Nubian Skin to create in partnership a range of more inclusive softie covers to help improve the care women of colour receive following a mastectomy.

Nubian Skin softie
Nubian Skin softie

Nubian Skin - a lingerie and hosiery brand specialising in skin-tone products for women of colour - developed these covers with Royal Marsden clinicians.

The products come in seven sizes of four colours: Berry, Cinnamon, Caramel and Café Au Lait.

They are currently only available for patients at The Royal Marsden, but clinicians hope to roll them out across the UK.

Veronica's story

Veronica Parke, 64 from London, was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2020 and had a mastectomy at The Royal Marsden in March 2021. After originally being given a softie that didn’t match her skin tone, she recently became one of the first women to receive this new product.

Veronica said:

I was too ill to have my breast reconstructed immediately after surgery, and I thought having a softie would compensate. However, the product I was initially offered, which was as pale as can be, didn’t match my skin tone, so I didn’t use it. This affected how I dressed, and I wore everything loose so people couldn’t see my shape.

After a mastectomy, you can feel disfigured, and you want something that helps you feel normal again.

Veronica Parke
Veronica Parke

It felt really good to be given my new softie and I wore it for the first time a few days later when my daughters took me out for a birthday meal. It was lovely being able to wear clothes more my size as the softie blends in so well with my skin tone. It was also exciting to see that there are now not just one, but four new shades, so many more women can benefit. 

I hope these new products will boost the confidence of more women with breast cancer, like me, after surgery and help with the healing process.

Sarah Adomah, Lead Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist at The Royal Marsden said: “For many women, having a mastectomy is incredibly traumatic and being given a softie in an inappropriate skin tone can make the experience even more upsetting. Ensuring that all breast cancer patients are given a softie that’s right for them is vital and I’m so proud to have helped bridge this gap in care.”

Natalie Johnson, Breast and Oncoplastic Surgeon, said: “We are extremely grateful to our partner Nubian Skin for making this range a reality and to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity for supporting this project. We hope this range, which is a true representation of patient-centred care, will eventually be distributed in all cancer centres in the UK.”

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