Breast cancer occurs in about 1 in 3,000 pregnancies and is the most common type of cancer diagnosed during pregnancy, after birth while breastfeeding, or within a year of delivery. The good news is that breast cancer doesn’t appear to harm your unborn baby. However, cancer treatment may interfere with your plans to breastfeed afterward.
Caring for a newborn baby can be stressful. So can going through breast cancer treatment. But juggling both at the same time? Women who are breast-feeding are often acutely aware of how their breasts feel so they will usually notice any physical changes. It is common to find breast lumps during lactation, which can lead women to worry about breast cancer. This invites an entirely new level of anxiety.
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Most doctors recommend women who are about to be treated for breast cancer stop (or not begin) breastfeeding, a heartbreaking directive for many new mothers. But you may not have to give up breastfeeding forever. Women who know they have breast cancer are likely to have concerns about the safety of breast-feeding and may wonder whether their cancer treatment could affect the baby.
Here are some guidelines to help you know what to expect as you approach treatment (covering chemotherapy, surgery and radiation) and to give you peace of mind that you’re keeping your baby safe while taking care of your own health.
How Safe Is Breastfeeding During Chemotherapy?
No. For the safety of the baby, breastfeeding isn’t recommended during chemotherapy. Many chemotherapy drugs, especially cyclophosphamide and methotrexate, may appear in high levels in breast milk and could potentially harm your nursing baby.
To protect your breastfeeding child, you may choose to wean your baby prior to beginning chemotherapy. You may also decide to pump during chemotherapy and throw away the milk. By pumping, you will continue producing milk so you can resume breastfeeding once your oncologist assures you it’s safe to do so.
Should You Breastfeed Before and Immediately After Surgery?
Absolutely no. If you’re planning to have surgery for breast cancer, stop breastfeeding in order to reduce blood flow to your breasts. This reduces the risk of infection and also helps prevent breast milk from collecting in the biopsy or surgery areas.
If you’re nursing, you may want to pump before you have surgery and store a supply of breast milk. This way, you’ll be able to continue feeding your baby breast milk while you’re separated during surgery and recovery. You may need to wait a little while after surgery to resume breastfeeding, because the anesthesia may get into your breast milk and harm your baby. Ask your surgeon how long the anesthesia will stay in your body and when you can safely go back to breastfeeding.
Can You Breastfeed During Radiation?
It depends on your oncologist whether it’s safe for you to breastfeed while you’re undergoing radiation. Breastfeeding during radiation may be safe, depending on what type of radiation you’re receiving and what part of your body is being treated. External beam radiation is usually safe for nursing mothers unless they’re getting chemotherapy concurrently. There are exceptions to this rule, however, so be sure to consult your oncologist. As for internal radiation, it may be dangerous to your baby while you’re breastfeeding, so again, talk to your oncologist. Pray also and ask God to heal your body and give you wisdom . He has told us to in all our ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.(Proverbs 3:5)
Will Your Baby’s Health Suffer When You Don’t Breastfeed?
Many women feel guilty if they can’t breastfeed and may worry that their baby’s health or intellectual development will suffer as a result. But the current research on the effects of breastfeeding is inconclusive. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants be fed only breast milk for the first six months due to the nutritional superiority of breast milk to infant formula. However, one 2014 study of 1,773 sibling pairs — one fed breast milk and one fed formula — found no significant differences between the breast-fed and bottle-fed babies on any of the 11 measures of health (including obesity and asthma) and intellectual competency (including math ability and memory-based intelligence).
Talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s health while you’re undergoing breast cancer treatment. If breastfeeding is going to pose too much risk to your baby, ask your pediatrician to recommend an infant formula. And remember, don’t let guilt get in the way of your recovery and being there for your child, now and for many years to come.
Are There Any Symptoms Of Cancer While Breastfeeding?
Women should speak with a doctor if they have any concerns about their breast health.
Several factors can make it more difficult for women who are lactating to get a breast cancer diagnosis These include the following:
- Breast-feeding can cause issues that are very similar to the symptoms of breast cancer because the symptoms are similar e.g. they can also develop engorgement, mastitis, plugged ducts, and sore nipples.
- Doctors may not think to test a woman for cancer if she finds a lump while breast-feeding as there are other possible causes.
- In most cases, the doctor will recommend that a woman stops breast-feeding following a breast cancer diagnosis.
- Many breast cancer treatments can affect a woman’s milk supply or negatively impact on the baby.
- The doctor will help to determine which treatment is best for an individual with breast cancer, as this can vary from person to person.
Possible treatments include:
- Surgery: Surgery may be necessary to remove a lump or cancerous growth. In some cases, this can involve a mastectomy (removal of the breast) or a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts). The extent of the surgery will determine whether or not the individual can continue breast-feeding.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses strong medications to destroy cancer cells within the body. Women who are having chemotherapy will need to stop breast-feeding.
- Radiation: Some women undergoing radiation treatment may be able to continue breast-feeding, depending on the specific type of therapy. A doctor will be able to explain the risks to allow the individual to make an informed decision.
Breast-feeding during cancer treatment may be possible, but it is essential to speak to your doctor before to determine if you can.
Developing breast cancer while breast-feeding is rare, but it is possible. Women should not hesitate to see their doctor if they have any concerns about their breasts.
In the event of a breast cancer diagnosis, the woman should discuss her options with the doctor, including whether or not she can continue to breast-feed. God is faithful . He loves you and He has healing benefits for you. If you are diagnosed with cancer I recommend that you seek Him first and all things will be added to you. I wish you God’s speed in Christ Jesus. Thank you for stopping by today and do come again. Please like my page if you do. I wish you every breastfeeding success. You can comment below if you like. so you know, Breast Fed Is Best Academy may earn commissions from shopping links.
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