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Pillows to Use for Comfort During Cancer Treatment and Recovery

This post has been verified by Ali Nowroozi

What is the purpose of a mastectomy pillow?

Their purpose is to provide relief for patients in surgical areas after surgery. A mastectomy pillow is also sometimes referred to as a comfort pillow. They are used to relieve pressure from the areas of discomfort. Plus, they help provide better rest and sleep for the patient. There are different from regular pillows in various ways. They are one of the most necessary items post-mastectomy. There are different types of mastectomy pillows. The right one solely depends on where the discomfort lies.

This is typically what mastectomy pillows look like 

For example, they may be used as;

  • Seat belt pillows
  • Donut pillows
  • Lower back pillows
  • Knee pillows
  • Beast support pillows
  • Armrest pillows
  • Pillow to use between breasts
  • Neck pillows
  • Breast support pillows
  • Wedge Pillows

Seat Belt Pillows

seat belt pillow mastectomy pillow

Post-breast surgery, the pressure from the seat belt may hurt due to a tender chest area. Thus, the seat belt pillow creates a protective barrier whilst providing comfort. This mastectomy pillow is equally effective for a driver as it is for a passenger. You can find seat belt pillows for mastectomy here for reasonable prices.

Donut pillows

donut pillow

Donut pillows are circular cushions with a hole in the center. Donut pillows are used to lessen the pain from prolonged sitting on flat surfaces. The hole in the middle is to relieve strain on the tailbone. As a result, it can significantly improve sitting comfort. Donut pillows can be found here.

Lower Back Pillows

Post-mastectomy, most doctors will recommend that you sleep on your back. Principally, because it reduces the unpleasant strain on the breast tissue. Placing the pillow on the far back side of a couch or chair can help ease the pain.

Knee Pillows

If you are a side sleeper, consider using knee pillows to keep the pressure off of your lower back. It provides extra cushioning on your knees and ankles. You can of course opt for a regular pillow between your knees if you are not looking to spend money on knee pillows. Although, dedicated knee pillows will not flatten out easily like regular pillows. Another option for side sleepers is to invest in a U-shaped pregnancy pillow

Breast support pillows

This type of support is for ladies with breast surgery. It helps during the recovery and healing process. Breast support pillows relieve any tender and painful feelings. This may be due to skin stretching, breast reconstruction, or a lumpectomy. They protect the surgical incisions. Also, they offer extra support during the adjustment of weight distribution. Using a breast support pillow gives your chest muscles the chance to readjust.

Armrest pillows

Armrest pillows are useful during chemotherapy sessions. They provide support to the arm that most likely will feel tender. Another use is when lying down. Elevating the arm will significantly take off unnecessary strain on the chest area during recovery. 

Pillow to use between breasts

This type of pillow separates the breasts. Thus it encourages a night of comfortable, relaxing sleep. It has many uses, one of them being relieving discomfort after a mastectomy. 

Neck pillows

Neck pillows are a highly popular item to use during travel such as on long-haul flights. They also offer relief during chemo sessions and any long amounts of time spent sitting down. Ensure you choose a plain design. Avoid uncomfortable features such as straps, and scratchy material. In fact, neck pillows also provide great comfort whilst sleeping. 

Wedge Pillow

Wedge pillows are triangular and are also referred to as maternity/breastfeeding pillows. They have two uses. The first is for keeping your feet elevated by raising the end of your bed. You can raise your lower legs and knees using a wedge pillow. Do this if your lower back is experiencing discomfort. The second use is to offer upper back support. Wedge pillows can make getting in and out of bed a much less painful task. This is useful during the first few weeks after surgery to reduce any chest strain. 


All-in-one mastectomy pillow

There are all-in-one mastectomy recovery pillows such as the Sleep Again Pillow System. Rather than buying a combination of pillows, this design offers an all-in-one approach. It offers 360° of support for the head, upper body, legs, and sides. The designer is a cancer survivor who understands the requirements after a mastectomy. It is customizable to suit each individual’s needs. 




How to use mastectomy pillows?

Many patients wonder how do you use a mastectomy pillow. They come in so many shapes and sizes that it can of course get confusing. It depends on the type of pillow you have. They can be placed between knees when lying on your side. Put it in between the seatbelt and your breast and chest. They work well between the breasts, or around your neck for added support. In turn, this will minimize the pain in the surgical areas. Read the instructions carefully for the items that you own to make the most use of them.


Is a mastectomy pillow really necessary?

Some patients are fine using regular pillows. Whereas, others feel it was a must-have for them to be able to function and sleep well. Some cancer survivors even continue to use them for comfort post-recovery. It depends on various factors. For instance, if you have trouble sleeping on your back but can fall asleep on your side. You’re more likely to reap the benefits of using mastectomy pillows. Regular pillows may do the job but depending on where the discomfort lies. Quite a few patients feel that mastectomy pillows are necessary.


Where to donate mastectomy pillows?

Many different organizations accept comfort pillow donations. In the US there are Bay Area Cancer Connections and Cancer Care Point.

In the UK there is a Facebook community group called Pillow Pals. They give people the chance to give away their mastectomy pillows for free. Big C is a cancer charity that creates cancer packages for patients. They accept donations of handmade heart-shaped cushions. 


Can you lay flat on your back after mastectomy?

This solely depends on the type of surgery as each patient’s situation differs. Hence, it is best to check with your doctor on the best position to sleep in. For some patients, sleeping on their backs is the only option available. Naturally, it can take some getting used to. A wedge pillow for your upper body is recommended for back sleepers and features memory foam. The steep angle makes getting up from your bed a lot easier. 


What is a chemo port pillow used for?

A port pillow is for chemo patients after surgery. It is to avoid irritation and discomfort caused by your port (portacath) and the seatbelt. It is perfect whilst going to and from hospital appointments in the car. In fact, it is also beneficial for the entire healing process. It works by attaching it to your seatbelt with Velcro. You place it directly over your port for relief. You can find chemo port pillows here


How to sleep comfortably with a port?

Sleeping on your back can significantly reduce the pressure of the port. Alternatively, another option is to sleep on the opposite side of the port. Again, this reduces the pressure and discomfort. Additionally, pillows can help you stay in the same position. Furthermore, it is important to wear lightweight, comfortable, and loose-fitting clothes.

Are there chemo pillows for kids?

There are many chemo pillows for kids available online. For example, port pillows for after surgery can be found here. They will ensure that your little one will feel more comfortable during rides in the car. Of course the designs are orientated toward much younger patients. So, they have fun designs and colors on them. A chemo pillow no doubt will reduce discomfort and improve your kid’s sleep quality. 

What type of pillows do I need after a mastectomy?

There is a range of mastectomy pillows that are useful after surgery. You will need a different type of pillow depending on the circumstance. For instance, for riding or driving in a car you will need a seatbelt /port pillow. For breast tenderness, a crest-shaped breast support mastectomy pillow offers much-needed relief. A wedge pillow is useful in relieving lower back pain. Neck pillows particularly come in handy during long periods of sitting down. An example is chemotherapy sessions. They also work well as extra support for back sleepers. To discuss which mastectomy pillows will be of most use to you, speak to your doctor. If you would like to gift a pillow to your loved one. Find out where they are experiencing the most discomfort and go from there.


What to gift cancer patients?

A handmade gift is always very thoughtful and will be deeply cherished. So, why not try your hand at making a chemo port pillow? You can even embroider it with messages of support. Getting a good night’s sleep is very important, especially after surgery. So, an item to improve comfort and regulate the body’s temperature is a soft cotton sleeping hat. You can find them here. They come in a range of colors for easy coordination with pajamas and slippers. Gifting heart pillows (lumpectomy pillows) for breast cancer patients is a loving gesture. Plus, they offer great relief and comfort below the breast and under the armpit. Another option would be to make it a heart-shaped mastectomy pillow by hand. You can find the simple instructions here. For more practical and thoughtful ideas, read our blog on what to gift cancer patients. 

How can pillows help during my recovery?

Principally, pillows can lessen the severity of the side effects caused by cancer treatment. They provide comfort and support when you need it the most. The right pillows can help ease the pain and protect your body during the healing process. Additionally, pillows can greatly help improve the quality of your sleep. Naturally, quality rest plays an important role during the recovery process. Remember that no matter where the pain or discomfort lies, there is a pillow out there for you. Using it will help ease the uncomfortable sensation. Once you find your favorite types of pillows, no doubt your road to recovery will feel a lot smoother.

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