Thursday, 15 October 2009

Breastfeeding and cancer

Suddenly it’s October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here. All of a sudden we are showered with pink merchandise while the media lecture us on self-breast examinations.

This is all well and good, but if you're breastfeeding, lumps are not unusual. So according to La Leche League International's Breastfeeding Answer Book, you should contact your doctor only if the lump stays constant in size or gets bigger. 

Most lumps are either glands filled with milk or inflammation (read the BfN's information about mastitis here). Some are benign tumors (fibromas) or cysts filled with milk (galactoceles). Only in rare cases they are malign growths.

If you’re undergoing an examination, it’s advisable to breastfeed or express before it, as it’s easier to spot the lump if your breast is empty. Bear in mind that the following procedures do not affect breastfeeding: X-rays, CAT scans, MRI, radiopaque or radiocontrast agent (but you might be asked to suspend breastfeeding for 24 hours but research indicates it’s not necessary), fine-needle aspiration cytologic study, mammograms (but you might be asked to wean because if you are nursing, your breast’s density might make a mammogram difficult to read).

What if you’re diagnosed with cancer? Breastfeeding can continue depending on your treatment. If radioactive testing is used, temporary weaning is necessary. You cannot breastfeed during radioactive treatment and chemoteraphy, but if the radioactive treatment is used on one breast, breastfeeding can continue on the healthy one.

If you're healthy but there is a family history of breast cancer, breastfeeding can protect you. In 2002 Cancer Research UK conducted a study that compared breastfeeding history in women who had breast cancer with women who hadn’t.

The study involved 50,000 women with breast cancer and around 100,000 women without. Researchers found that breastfeeding lowered breast cancer risk by 4.3% for every year of breastfeeding. In addition, there was a 7% reduction in risk for each child born.

4.3%  might sound low, but researchers estimate that as breast cancer is a common disease in developed countries, breastfeeding every child for an extra six months would mean about 1,000 fewer cases in Britain each year.

If you’re not breastfeeding, can’t breastfeed or you are male, click here.

Find out more
Support the cause while you shop!
Mothercare has launched a collection of pink products in support of Cancer Research UK. Click here for the full list. If you'd like to help by buying other pink products, click here.

1 comment:

  1. I am really impress to see you kind of spreading the awareness, i do the same here in NJ. Keep doing that, I really admire your work.

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