In a move designed to complement its new $1.2 million Reger Family Center for Breast Health, Billings Clinic has purchased the inventory of mastectomy and breast-cancer products from TLC Lingerie and opened its Breast Boutique.
The Breast Boutique, which opened Oct. 7, is on the second floor of the Billings Clinic Cancer Center in the heart of the medical corridor. The shop, stocked with a robust inventory of lotions, bras, scarves, prostheses and more, is expected to draw at least a couple thousand women from Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho.
The demand is driven by the fact that breast cancer in the United States is the most common cancer in women. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. To get rid of, or prevent the spread of, the cancer, an operation called a mastectomy is performed, which removes some of or the entire breast.
To that end, there is a worldwide demand for mastectomy products that are colorful and luxurious and make women feel beautiful and sensuous.
The retail clinic will help satisfy a growing demand for breast cancer products, including prosthetics. Of all mastectomy patients, 90 percent will use an external prosthesis either permanently or while waiting for breast reconstruction.
Billings Clinic and TLC Lingerie, 1402 Broadwater Ave., jointly decided the move would benefit patients.
“It’s a better opportunity to offer women of the community a better service,” said Des Fillner, manager of the Breast Boutique. She worked at TLC Lingerie for five years as a certified fitter, working intimately with cancer patients at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. She is the only certified fitter currently practicing in Montana. “It’s about learning what’s best for each person.”
The Breast Boutique is a retail outlet for anyone who could benefit from the products, not just Billings Clinic patients. It offers two private fitting rooms where patients receive Fillner’s one-on-one consultation. Gone is the hustle and bustle of shopping for mastectomy bras and prosthetics at TLC Lingerie where girls and women flock for everything from bras to lingerie to swimsuits.
Johanna Thompson, 36, of Billings, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and underwent a unilateral mastectomy in June. She has a full-time job in the medical corridor, two children, ages 4 and 19 months, and a cancer diagnosis.
She said prior to the Breast Boutique opening in Billings Clinic, she would have to drive across town after work hours. While she was grateful to have a place to shop, it was inconvenient at a stressful time in her life.
She has completed eight rounds of chemotherapy and has eight left to go.
“To be able to bop over here will be much more convenient,” Thompson said.
Another advantage to having the retail boutique at Billings Clinic is the ease with which insurance can be billed, Thompson said. When the products were located at TLC Lingerie, women would have to pay for them out of pocket and submit receipts to their respective insurance companies.
Now, Billings Clinic can bill purchases directly to insurance.
A mastectomy bra costs, on average, $42; prosthetics can cost $300 or more. Medicare covers bras and prostheses as medically necessary. Most insurance companies cover breast prostheses and bras, but each insurance company is different.