Overview

If you’re breastfeeding a newborn baby, you may be concerned about the fitness of your breasts. Some women wonder if they can develop breast cancer while breastfeeding. However rare, it is a possibility.
Read on to know how to spot breast cancer during you’re breastfeeding and what treatments are available.

What causes lumps in lactating women?


Women who breastfeed a newborn baby may feel lumps in their breasts. In many situations, these lumps aren’t cancerous. Breast lumps in lactating women may be caused due to:

Mastitis: This is an infection of the breast tissue caused by blocked milk duct or bacteria. You may have the following signs:
  • fever

  • swelling

  • skin warmth

  • breast tenderness

  • skin redness

  • pain

Breast abscesses: If mastitis is not medicated, a painful abscess containing pus can initiate. This mass may appear as a swollen lump that’s red and hot.

Fibroadenomas: These are benign (noncancerous) tumors that can grow in the breast. Fibroadenomas may feel like marbles when you touch them. They generally move under the skin and aren’t tender.

Galactoceles: These harmless milk-filled cysts are generally painless.

In usual, noncancerous lumps feel smooth and round and proceed within the breast. Cancerous lumps are generally hard and irregular in shape and they don’t move.

Read more to know what does a breast cancer lump feel like? 

Early symptoms of breast cancer

Lumps aren’t the unique symptoms of breast cancer. Other early signs or symptoms may include:

  • swelling or warmth of the breast

  • breast pain that doesn’t go away

  • change in shape, size, or look of the breast

  • redness or darkening of the breast

  • itchy or sore rash on the nipple of boobs

  • nipple discharge

Read more about fatal signs of breast cancer

Incidence


Breast cancer in breastfeeding women is rare. Only about three percent of women develop breast cancer while breastfeeding.

Breast cancer in teenage women isn’t very common either. Less than five percent of all breast cancer diagnoses in the United States are in women younger than 40 years.

When to see a medical doctor


You should see a medical doctor if the lump in your breast:
  • doesn't move

  • comes back in the same place after treatment for a blocked duct

  • causes dimpling of the skin, also term as peau d’orange

  • doesn’t go away after about a week

  • is firm or hard

  • keeps growing

Lactation can cause alternations in your breasts, which may make noticing signs of cancer tricky. It’s a good idea to see your medical doctor if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts.

How breast cancer is diagnosed

If your doctor suspects breast cancer, they’ll perform some tests to make a diagnosis.

An ultrasound or mammogram can provide sketches of the lump and help your medical doctor to determine if the mass looks suspicious. You may also need a biopsy, which involves extracting a very small sample from the lump to test for cancer.

If you’re lactating, a radiologist may have a harder time reading your mammogram. Your medical doctor may recommend you to pause breastfeeding before having diagnostic tests, but this advice is comparatively controversial. According to the La Leche League International, most women can have screening procedures such as needle biopsies, mammograms, and even certain types of surgery while breastfeeding a newborn baby.

Discuss to your medical doctor about the benefits and risks of breastfeeding while receiving diagnostic tests of breast cancer.

Treatment while breastfeeding

If you have breast cancer while breastfeeding, you may require surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Your medical doctor will help you decide which treatments are best for your particular situation.

Read more to learn breast cancer treatment options by stages

Surgery and breastfeeding

You might be able to continue breastfeeding before and after having surgery to remove your tumor depending on the kind of treatment procedure. Talk to your medical doctor about whether it’s safe and secure for you and your newborn baby to continue breastfeeding.

Whether you have a double mastectomy, you won’t be capable to breastfeed.

Medicating a breast cancer with radiation after a lumpectomy means it generally produces very little or no milk. You may be capable to breastfeed with the untreated boobs, however.

Ask your medical doctor what medications you’ll receive before and after surgery of cancer and if they’re safe and secure for a newborn baby who’s breastfed. You may require to pump your milk and discard it for a period of time before resuming breastfeeding.

Chemotherapy and breastfeeding

If you require chemotherapy, you’ll have to stop breastfeeding your newborn baby. The powerful drugs used in chemotherapy can affect how cells divide in the body.

Radiotherapy and breastfeeding

You may be able to continue breastfeeding with your newborn baby while receiving radiation therapy. It depends on the kind of radiation you have. Some women can breastfeed their babies with the unaffected breast only.

Treatment side effects

It’s significant to remember that you could experience side effects from treatment. These may include:

  • weight loss

  • pain

  • weakness

  • nausea

  • fatigue

You might want to request help with childcare so you have duration to rest and recover.

Outlook

Breast cancer in teenaged women tends to be more aggressive, but an early diagnosis can progress your outlook.

Your risk of developing breast cancer while breastfeeding is low, but if you are recognized with cancer, you may be able to continue breastfeeding your baby.

Discuss to your medical doctor about the best options for your unique condition. Your team of medical doctors can help you decide whether breastfeeding during your cancer treatment is the right option for you and your newborn baby.

Emotional support

There are many decisions to make when you’re identified with breast cancer. Electing to pause or continue breastfeeding may be a difficult selection.

If you plan to continue breastfeeding, you might want to find a lactation medical specialist to help you deal with any challenges.

Reaching out for emotional support can advantage you to manage your diagnosis, as well. Surround yourself with family members, good friends, and a medical team to create a good support system. You might also want to reach out to others in an in-person or online support category.