Breast Changes During Breastfeeding
Your breasts go through a lot of changes during and after pregnancy. Many of the changes that happen during pregnancy are caused by hormones and happen to prepare the breasts for breastfeeding.
Lumps in the breast can occur during this time. The most common ones are:
These are all benign breast conditions.
Sometimes, when breastfeeding, a milk duct in the breast can become blocked. This may cause a small, painful, hard lump. Gently massaging the lump towards the nipple before feeding can help clear it.
Breast cancer in women of child-bearing age is uncommon, so the vast majority of lumps in younger women will be benign. However, its still important to get any new lumps checked.
If I Get Pregnant Would My History Of Breast Cancer Put My Baby At Risk
Having a history of breast cancer does seem to be linked to an increased risk of some possible complications of pregnancy, including pre-term delivery, having a low-birth-weight baby, and the need for a cesarean section .
But research has not found that a womans past breast cancer has any direct effect on her baby. There is no increased rate of birth defects or other long-term health concerns in children born to women who have had breast cancer.
Other Benefits Of Breastfeeding
There are lots of other benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your child.
Breastfeeding can lower your babys risk of infections, childhood leukaemia, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
As well as breast cancer, breastfeeding may also lower your risk of ovarian cancer, osteoporosis , heart disease, stroke and obesity.
However, its important that you make the right decision for you. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed is a personal decision. Some women choose not to, and others find it difficult or are unable to for a number of reasons.
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I Found A Lump While Breastfeeding My Baby What Should I Do
Its normal to notice changes to your breasts during and after pregnancy. But its still important to be breast aware at this time and get any new lumps or any other changes that are new for you checked.
You may have seen a news story recently about a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer after trying to breastfeed her baby son. According to the newspaper, her baby became distressed when she tried to feed him from her right breast.
While her experience may be unusual, it does highlight an issue that many women face that it can be hard to know how your breasts should look and feel when youre pregnant and afterwards.
Pregnancy After Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is most common in older women. But if you are a younger woman who has had breast cancer, you might question if this has affected your fertility and if there are any extra risks if you become pregnant.
Many women are able to become pregnant after being treated for breast cancer. However, some treatments can make it harder to get pregnant. If you think you might want to have children one day, or just want to keep your options open, the best time to talk to your doctor about this is before you begin breast cancer treatment.
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Does Breastfeeding Affect Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
Breastfeeding an age old debate. With hosts of stories in the media wrangling with the pros and cons of breastfeeding, it can be difficult to remove the fact from the fiction. And while we know that there can be some important benefits for both mum and baby, the breast is best message often leads to those who dont breastfeed feeling unfairly judged.
Breastfeeding And Cancer Prevention
In addition to the benefits breastfeeding provides for babies, it also can play a role in cancer prevention for moms. Studies show that breastfeeding especially reduces the risk for premenopausal women. Moms who breastfed for a lifetime total of more than two years got the most benefit, but moms who breastfed less than a year also lowered their cancer risk.
If you would like to breastfeed during cancer treatment, the most important steps are to find out how this affectsyou and your baby. Working closely with your medical team and your babys pediatrician will help you determine the best course of action. If you are interested in breastfeeding once treatment is completed, a lactation consultant and your pediatrician can provide the support and information to ensure you both thrive.
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Could Breast Cancer Treatment Affect My Unborn Baby
If you are still getting any type of treatment for breast cancer, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy, talk to your doctor before trying to become pregnant. Many of these drugs might affect a growing fetus, so it is safer to wait until all treatment is complete before getting pregnant.
Its also important to remember that stopping treatment early can increase the risk of the cancer growing or coming back. See Treating Breast Cancer During Pregnancy for more on this.
It’s Easy To Get The Care You Need
See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.
Sticking it out with breastfeeding takes perseverance. And now theres new evidence to back your conviction that its your healthiest choice. You probably already know about breastfeeding advantages for your baby. But do you know that breastfeeding benefits you, too? Among its health perks, research shows that women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast cancer. And, women who breastfeed the longest receive the greatest benefit.
Why Are My Nipples Sore To Touch When Im Not Pregnant
There can be several reasons your nipples are sensitive to touch other than pregnancy. If you’re not pregnant, other causes could be hormonal shifts due to menstruation or birth control, trauma or infection. If you experience prolonged soreness thats accompanied by a lump or nipple discharge, contact your healthcare provider right away.
What Are Some Of The Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Infants And Mothers
Breastfeeding is important for overall health. Infants that are breastfed have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, and gastrointestinal infections such as diarrhea. Breastfeeding also lowers a mothers risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancers.
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How Breastfeeding Lowers Breast Cancer Risk
While a woman is pregnant and soon after giving birth, hormonal changes cause a pause in her monthly period. Breastfeeding extends these hormonal changes. As a result, women who breastfeed arenât exposed to as many hormones over their lifetimes as women who donât. Since overexposure to estrogen and other hormones is linked to breast cancer risk, breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risk. This benefit is maximized if women breastfeed their babies for at least one year.
Another reason that breastfeeding is linked to breast cancer risk reduction is that women generally watch their diet more while breastfeeding. Since they are eating more nutritious foods and not smoking or drinking, breastfeeding mothers lead healthier lives overall. This lifestyle lowers breast cancer risk.
Breastfeeding Symptom Leads To An Unexpected Diagnosis
When McAllister was weaning her second son from breastfeeding, she found a lump in her right breast.
I thought initially it was mastitis or something like that. I wasnt too concerned, she said.
Still, she visited the doctor, who performed an exam and thought the lump felt a little suspicious and recommended McAllister have a sonogram. McAllister had little experience with the breast cancer tests at her age.
Id never had a mammogram. Id never had a breast sonogram, she said. They told me it looks suspicious and asked if I could stay to get a biopsy and a mammogram on the spot.
She was worried and later her doctor called and said that McAllister had a rare type of triple negative breast cancer called metaplastic carcinoma.
They asked me to get genetic testing because I was 36 years old and its not typical for a young, healthy woman to have breast cancer, she said. I was BRCA positive.
People who are BRCA positive are at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer so they often undergo a prophylactic hysterectomy. But a hysterectomy that removes the uterus and ovaries would mean that McAllister couldnt carry any more children. On top of it, her cancer was rare and didnt respond to targeted treatment. McAllister was overwhelmed.
I had a baby. I had a 3-year-old, she said. I was debilitatingly depressed. I didnt know how to process it.
McAllister had a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and finally had her ovaries removed but kept her uterus.
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Our Major Findings On Cancer And Lactation/breastfeeding
There is strong evidence that:
- breastfeeding DECREASES the risk of breast cancer in the mother
The evidence shows that, in general, the greater the number of months that women continue breastfeeding their babies, the greater the protection these women have against breast cancer.
This is the opinion of the Expert Panel and forms the basis of our Recommendation on breastfeeding
There is also other evidence that is limited but is suggestive of a decreased risk of ovarian cancer in women who breastfeed. Further research is required, and the Panel has not used this evidence to make recommendations.
Implications For Public Health Practice
To increase rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration among black women, and potentially decrease some subtypes of breast cancer incidence, interventions are needed that are specifically designed to meet the needs of black mothers. Integrating interventions across multiple layers of society and in multiple settings, including hospitals and medical settings, workplaces, schools, community-based organizations and places of worship, has been effective at increasing rates of breastfeeding among black women.34 Including information in these interventions about breastfeeding as a protective factor for aggressive breast cancers that more frequently impact black women may encourage healthcare providers, employers, child care providers, and family and friends to support and encourage breastfeeding. Because triple-negative breast cancer disproportionately affects younger women and non-Hispanic black women,6,7 providing this information to these women during preconception and interconception care may influence their breastfeeding intentions for future and subsequent children.
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We Dug Through The Complicated Research To Help You Minimize Your Risk
Most women can rattle off a couple benefits of breastfeeding: Fewer colds and illnesses? Yep. A precious way to bond? Definitely.
But things get a little murkier when it comes to one, potentially life-saving reason to breastfeed: a reduced risk of breast cancer. While plenty of research has established a link, it’s surprisingly hard to get straight answers. We sorted through the studies to give you the scoop.
Does It Matter How Long I Breastfeed
The World Health Organization recommends moms breastfeed exclusively for the first six months as the best nutrition for your baby. That timing also just happens to correspond with what’s best for you in terms of your breast cancer risk. After six months of breastfeeding, your cancer risk reduction becomes significant. Bonus: the longer you breastfeed after six months, the more your risk drops.
Women who breastfeed the longest receive the greatest benefit.
Researchers in Great Britain analyzed data from dozens of clinical studies across 30 countries and found that for every 12 months of breastfeeding, a womans risk of breast cancer lowers 4.3 percent. This 12 month period holds true whether it is continuous months with one child or spread out between several. So, women who breastfeed for two years have twice the benefit of those who breastfeed for one!
Knowing about positive research like this may give you a boost on those days when you may want to stop breastfeeding before you or your baby are really ready to wean. Of course, sometimes problems arise that may cancel out breastfeedings benefits. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your situation. But generally, making the day-by-day decision to breastfeed is a caring choice for both you and your baby!
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Can I Have A Baby After Having Breast Cancer
Some treatments for breast cancer might affect a womans fertility. For example, chemotherapy for breast cancer might damage the ovaries, which can sometimes cause immediate or delayed infertility. Still, many women are able to become pregnant after treatment. For more about how cancer treatment can affect fertility, see Female Fertility and Cancer.
What Do Studies Say
The scientific community has several hypotheses on why breastfeeding decreases breast cancer risk. Pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce the number of menstrual cycles during a womans lifetime, as well as her exposure to endogenous hormones, which are associated with breast cancer risks. Some researchers also believe that pregnancy and breastfeeding have direct impacts on breast cells, causing them to change so they can produce milk, which may prevent them from becoming cancer cells.
Some studies also indicate that mothers who have breastfed their children may have a lower risk of dying from breast cancer. Other research suggests breastfeeding may lower the mothers risk of diabetes and the childs risk of cancer.
Diagnosing breast cancer during pregnancy or while the mother is lactating may prove difficult, delaying a diagnosis. Symptoms of breast cancer are similar to those that may be caused by nursing or inflamed breast tissue, including a mass, pain, nipple discharge and redness.
Lactating mothers are more likely to get false positive or inconclusive results on a mammogram or ultrasound. Some providers are also reluctant to recommend imaging and biopsy, because most symptoms are common during lactation and do not necessarily indicate cancer.
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Why Does Breastfeeding Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Research has pointed to a few theories, though none have been proven. One is that women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles throughout their lives, and therefore less exposure to estrogen, which has been shown to fuel some types of breast cancers. Another theory: Breastfeeding makes breast cells more resistant to mutations that can cause cancer.
Additionally, there are lifestyle factors that often come into play: Breastfeeding women tend to give up smoking and drinking, eat healthier foods, and in general take care of themselves better. These behaviors are known to reduce your breast cancer risk.
Breastfeeding And Reduced Risk Of Breast Cancer
Reproductive risk factors associated with breast cancer risk include age of menarche, number of pregnancies, age at first birth, lifetime duration of breastfeeding, age at menopause, and use of menopausal hormone therapy however, research has found that these factors are differentially associated with each subtype.5 Breastfeeding is of particular interest for breast cancer prevention because it is a modifiable risk factor. Breastfeeding not only reduces breast cancer risk but also confers other health benefits to the mother including reduced risk for endometrial and ovarian cancers8 and reduced risk for chronic conditions that are also risk factors for cancer, such as hypertension and diabetes.9,10 Additionally, breastfeeding provides many benefits to the infant, including fewer episodes of diarrhea, ear infections, and lower respiratory infections and a lower risk of sudden infant death, diabetes, asthma, and childhood obesity.11
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Breastfeeding After Cancer Treatment
More commonly, women wonder if they can still breastfeed after cancer treatment is complete. The answer may vary. If you had surgery on only one breast, the unaffected breast should be fine. Treatment on the affected side may have damaged the tissue, making it uncomfortable for you to breastfeed or difficult for the baby to latch on. Breast surgery and radiation can affect the amount of milk that the breast is able to produce.
If you are interested in breastfeeding after cancer treatment, it is important to work with your childs pediatrician to make sure your baby is getting the nutrition they need. A certified lactation consultant also can provide encouragement, guidance and resources. Keeping the baby in your room after delivery, maintaining skin-to-skin contact and feeding on demand can help accelerate and maximize milk production and family bonding.
Breastfeeding Lowers Your Breast Cancer Risk
Breastfeeding can be a challenge. But the health benefits for both youand your baby are worth the effort.
You probably know that breastfeeding can give your baby a healthy start. But thats not the only health benefit. It also can lower your breast cancer risk.
Research shows mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. And, breastfeeding longer than the recommended six months can provide additional protection, says Lindsey Wohlford, wellness dietitian.
Most women who breastfeed experience hormonal changes during lactation that delay their menstrual periods. This reduces a womans lifetime exposure to hormones like estrogen, which can promote breast cancer cell growth.
In addition, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you shed breast tissue. This shedding can help remove cells with potential DNA damage, thus helping to reduce your chances of developing breast cancer, Wohlford says.
Breastfeeding also can help lower your ovarian cancer risk by preventing ovulation. And the less you ovulate, the less exposure to estrogen and abnormal cells that could become cancer.
Here’s what you need to know about breastfeeding and tips for support.
Breastfeed for at least six months
After six months, breast milk provides at least half of your childs nutritional needs. So, you can gradually introduce foods like baby cereal, fruits and vegetables. However, you should continue to breastfeed.
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Could Pregnancy Or Breastfeeding Make My Breast Cancer Come Back
Many breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen, so there has been concern that for women who have had breast cancer, the high hormone levels that result from a pregnancy might increase the chance of the cancer coming back. However, studies have not shown that pregnancy increases the risk of the cancer coming back after successful treatment.
Some women might not be able to breastfeed after breast cancer treatment, depending on the treatment they received and other factors . But for those who are able to, breastfeeding after treatment is not thought to increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of developing breast cancer, although there is less research about whether it can help lower the risk of breast cancer coming back after treatment.