Black woman who had mastectomy devastated as NHS couldn’t find prosthetic for skin tone

A black grandmother who had a mastectomy to save her life was dismayed when she found there were no prosthetic breasts matching her skin tone.

Veronica Parke, 64, underwent the operation in 2021 at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital after being diagnosed with breast cancer a year earlier.

After the operation she was too sick to have reconstructive surgery so opted to have a prosthetic known as a softie in its place.

She was dismayed when none of those available matched her skin tone, My London reported.

Veronica said: “I was too ill to have my breast reconstructed immediately after surgery, and I thought having a softie (a soft prosthetic designed to mimic the natural shape of a breast) 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.”

To change that, Royal Marsden has created a range of softies which will match many skin tones, with Veronica among the first to receive one.

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

“I wore the new softie for the first time 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.”

The new range of covers come in seven sizes of four colours: berry, cinnamon, caramel and café au lait.

Breast surgeon at the Royal Marsden, Natalie Johnson, called the product “a true representation of patient-centred care”.

Specialist nurse Sarah Adomah added: “Being given a softie in an inappropriate skin tone can make having a mastectomy even more upsetting.

“Ensuring 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.”

Clinicians at Royal Marsden hope the softies will help other patients feel more confident about their bodies after going through what can be a devastating experience.

The products are currently available for patients at the hospital in Chelsea, West London, but the Royal Marsden hopes to roll them out more widely across the UK, in conjunction with lingerie and hosiery company Nubian Skin.