Breastfeeding With Breast Cancer

By Alyssa Adler

Breast cancer affects all people in all stages of life and although it is rare, it can occur when a woman is pregnant, breastfeeding, or in their first year postpartum. It is estimated that 1 in every 3,000 pregnant women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

In general, it is recommended that women who are receiving breast cancer treatment after pregnancy avoid breastfeeding. With chemotherapy, some drugs can easily enter breastmilk and for treatments such as surgery, cessation of breastfeeding will limit the blood flow into the breasts, making them smaller and easier to perform an operation. It is possible to begin breastfeeding again post-treatment, once the medications and radioactive components have exited the body. Diagnostic tests such as CAT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, biopsies, and mammograms are safe to undergo when breastfeeding.

Depending on the severity and location of the cancer, the method of “pumping and dumping” may need to be considered. This involves pumping out the milk that is collected inside the breast and disposing of it while in treatment. With this method, there is continual milk production so that once the treatment is over it’s easier to return to breastfeeding.

It is important to note that cancer cells cannot be passed from the mother to the baby via breast milk. However, some medications can be passed from the mother to the baby through breast milk, so be sure to discuss this process with a professional before starting treatment or beginning to breastfeed.

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