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Breast feeding after breast cancer - one shot to get it right

(8 Posts)
neuroticlady Sat 18-Aug-07 13:07:19

Hello everyone. I'm currently just 15 weeks pg so this may seem very early to be worrying about breastfeeding, but when I was 28 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I still have both breasts intact thanks to lumpectomy and swift treatment but I have no lymph nodes in my right arm. Anyway, that was 10 years ago and I have been very lucky that everything has been fine since. But I've been told by my breast consultant (who I still have to see six-monthly) that because of having no lymph nodes if I choose to breastfeed I will have to be extremely careful as the first sign of any trouble, pain, infection could lead to nasty condition called lymphoma where arm swells up to elephant proportions and as far as I know it's non-reversible. All to do with no lymph nodes to fight the infection. So no chance of putting up with a bit of infection/ mastitis etc while I get the hang of it - I kind of have to get it right immediately or forget it. I just wondered if anyone else has experienced this or can offer any advice. Is it possible to feed from one breast only??? I'm reading all the books on breastfeeding I can and I've got the name of the lactation consultant at the hospital where I'll be having the baby so I can talk to her in advance, but I know nothing is the same as a bit of practical, hands-on experience and as this is first baby I have none! I'm so worried it'll end in disaster. Would love to hear your thoughts, thanks (and sorry for long post).

whomovedmychocolate Sat 18-Aug-07 13:26:03

Hi Neuroticlady - I had a large lump removed and then went onto breastfeed but it wasn't cancer so I'm not too sure how all that works.

You can just feed on one side though. I remember being terribly worried that things just wouldn't work and yes the first week was hard but after that it was a doddle - I'm still feeding DD now (10 months old).

You rarely get mastitis in the first six weeks though and if you haven't worked out how to do it by then, most likely you'll have given up.

Good luck and congrats on your pregnancy!

puffylovett Sat 18-Aug-07 13:30:24

hi there neurotic lady. so sorry to hear if your circumstances !!!

i would read read read lots of info whatever you can get your hands on. Talk to NCT and la leche before baby is born and maybe ask for someone senior to come out to you ? I dont see why you can't just feed from one side, after all twins have to don;t they..

it might be worth taking anti-infectious things like a higher dose of vit c, probiotics, zinc, strong multi vit etc so that you're boosting your immune system to deal with infection should it set in - make sure diet is excellent with lotsof organic fruit / veg and 2-3 litres of water daily, get in the habit of drinking it now so it won't be hard when baba comes along.

also learn how to express manually - i had a close shave with mastitis when he was 3 weeks, but took high doses of the above, had a bath and hand expressed into the water, took some paracetamol and went to bed with baby and fed fed fed - it never set in thank god, managed to see it off before it took a hold. my signs were feeling v tired and achey all over, left tit hurt and went quite hard and engorged and a thumping headache.

donlt know if this helps, i'm sure someone more experienced than me will be along shortly, but good luck wth your pregnancy and feeding, you'll get lots of help here !!

tiktok Sat 18-Aug-07 14:09:01

Wow - lots of good wishes to you, NL!

Your milk will come in whatever you do, and you will make milk on both sides initially, whatever you do. Yes, you can feed on one side only, in that there will be enough milk for your baby with one breast, but not feeding at all from the start on the affected breast is probably not a good idea, as this will lead initially to engorgement which risks mastitis.

You can wind down production gradually on the affected side if this is what you decide to do.

It would be worth talking this through with someone and it's a good idea to talk to the lactation consultant at the hosp.

bookthief Sat 18-Aug-07 14:18:00

Link here to a paper on case studies of women who breastfed after breast cancer which might be useful.

ib Sat 18-Aug-07 14:22:02

Not much to say, would definitely recommend working closely with the lactation consultant, but just wanted to add my good wishes that all goes well for you.

terricotter Sun 19-Aug-07 14:01:45

I had a lumpectomy 3 weeks after my baby was born, I also had 4 or 5 lymph nodes removed, I was already breast feeding and had no probs until i had to stop 3 weeks later ( 6 weeks after baby started BF) due to going onto tamoxifin. I did get mastitis cause I stopped too suddenly but my arm though hurting due to nerve damage did not swell up. I would suggest feeding off both sides initally but stopping gradually on the side with no lymph nodes but dont wait too long like I did and have lots of milk to get rid of. Hope thats a help good luck.

neuroticlady Mon 20-Aug-07 07:24:10

Thanks a million everyone. Never having had a baby before I'm a total ignoramus about feeding (despite reading tons of books) and got myself into a bit of a state after seeing the breast consultant. Good to know feeding from one side is possible, also the tip for boosting my immune system with anti-infectious things and also maybe to feed more regularly so things like engorgement/ blocked ducts don't get a chance to happen. Also the tip to stop gradually on right side has helped put my mind at rest. All really enlightening and VERY helpful. Thanks again, and for the good wishes. I really appreciate it.

P.S. Terricotter I hope all is well with you now.

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