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Is breastfeeding incompatible with maintaining my own breast health?

(72 Posts)
abigboydidit Sun 14-Jul-13 20:13:39

Hi -

I have posted about this before & it is a bit of a saga so I will try to summarise. About one and a half years ago I noticed a lump in my left breast. I was still breastfeeding DS (then 6/7 months old) & this created a huge amount of barriers in terms of scanning and treatment options. They initially refused to offer anything other than a mammogram but then turned me away, saying it would be inconclusive due to the milk in my breasts. As DS was dairy intolerant and a bottle refuser, then finally accepted that I had to feed him and offered me 1st an ultrasound (results inconclusive because of milk - lots of eye rolling and sighing from the radiographer) and finally a core gun biopsy. Thankfully I was told it was a harmless "thing" and that it would not change size/shape/location.

It has now changed size and shape and location.

I went to the GP to be re-referred to the clinic which she did and I have been given an urgent appointment for 2 weeks time. However, I am still feeding my DD. She is only 5.5 months but the GP was insistent that I stop prior to the appointment so that I can get a mammogram. I haven't stopped but still have time to do so if I have to confused.

I do not want to be reckless with my own health but also don't want to stop feeding DD prematurely if it is unnecessary and just a case of making it easy for the clinic to follow their basic protocol, rather than offering a more flexible approach. I would appreciate any advice or experience as I am so confused. Thanks in advance.

littlemefi Sun 14-Jul-13 20:19:43

Is there a breast care specialist nurse available?
Or perhaps google any breast care helplines for advice?

AnaisB Sun 14-Jul-13 20:21:08

Hope you're ok. Sounds like a stressful time/decision.

No medical knowledge, but i'd just stop. Breastfeeding is making it harder to get conclusive results and thus delaying any treatment you might need.

Bunbaker Sun 14-Jul-13 20:23:51

I agree with Anais. Your health is very important. Besides you could juts carry on feeding from one side.

abigboydidit Sun 14-Jul-13 20:26:57

Thanks for your replies. There doesn't seem to be a nurse who can help. There is an infant feeding specialist nurse who I called and she gave me advice on moving to formula - she had no clue about how breastfeeding might impact on test results and treatment options. Despite the urgent referral, my GP still reassured me that the fact it was benign 1.5 years ago suggests it still will be but that they may just want to drain/remove it for my comfort. I suppose I just feel so astonished that the one thing I am doing which is supposed to protect my breast health is the thing which everyone in the service wants me to stop! Am really dreading the appointment as last time they made me feel like a total freak for feeding my DS despite the fact he was still a teeny 6/7 month old. Every session I had to justify why I was still feeding him and they were so reluctant to reveal that in fact there were investigations (the core gun biopsy) which were compatible with breastfeeding angry

Thesebootsweremadeforwalking Sun 14-Jul-13 20:29:59

What a rotten situation to be in, OP. Have you got a lactation consultant/ specialist BF midwife you could talk it over with? IME they tend to take a lateral view on BF-related problems and maybe they might have supported someone else through a similar situation before, so can advise?

abigboydidit Sun 14-Jul-13 20:31:29

I should confess that about a month ago I was keen to stop breastfeeding and persevered and have really been starting to enjoy it again..hence my reluctance shock

Thesebootsweremadeforwalking Sun 14-Jul-13 20:32:33

Sorry - cross-posted. If you're getting no support locally, how about La Leche League or NCT BF counsellors, if you can find one locally or by telephone?

Lagoonablue Sun 14-Jul-13 20:34:00

At 5.5 your child has had a good 'dose' of bfing. You are probably fine but best get everything checked out. Your child needs their mum and your health is really important.

Bert2e Sun 14-Jul-13 20:37:56

Try these links for good info:

lastnightidreamt Sun 14-Jul-13 20:37:57

I hope that you find the breast clinic a bit better structured and more set up for this problem than the route you went last time.

From what friends have said, the urgent referral is standard practice for any lump in the breast - always within the 2 weeks - and in all of their cases, has been absolutely fine.

Wishing you the very best of luck.

Rummikub Sun 14-Jul-13 20:40:01

Wouldn't you still be producing milk in 2 weeks even if you stop feeding now? Think I was still producing milk months after I stopped ebf. Also agree with lagoon that you have given your baby a really good start with 5.5 months ebf.

Think you do need to speak to someone with more specialist knowledge.

sleepyhead Sun 14-Jul-13 20:42:20

At 5.5 months I would expect it to take quite a long time for the milk to disappear. It's not going to vanish overnight - how quickly do they want to do the mammogram?

As a previous poster has said, you could always stop feeding from the side with the lump and continue on the unaffected side for now. I suspect you could relactate quite easily if it turns out to be nothing.

abigboydidit Sun 14-Jul-13 20:46:50

Thanks everyone. Unfortunately it is the same clinic as before.. I was considering calling the consultant tomorrow to ask if I could have another biopsy, as I don't see why I have to have a mammogram (if there is a good reason for limiting the number then I will admit defeat ). That way if the results are good, I might be able to keep feeding? <clutches straws>

On my clunky phone so will check out links later, thanks so much.


- Just thinking it's a bit crap that NHS can't accommodate breastfeeding as a completely normal state for a woman and her breasts to be involved in !

Good luck to you all thanks

AidanTheRevengeNinja Sun 14-Jul-13 20:51:57

I would not ignore the lump, nor would I stop breastfeeding before I wanted to.

I would flat out insist on another core biopsy. You've had it before, you can have it again.

As you have found out, there are investigations compatible with breastfeeding. Yes, the interpretation is more complicated and involves extra work/specialist input. But as you rightly say, why should you compromise your own health or your daughter's to make life easier for healthcare professionals?

Ignore the eye rolling, the comments, the need to justify. Sometimes you have to advocate for yourself and your child and be the "difficult" patient, and sod what the HCPs think. I say this as a doctor in the NHS and also a mother of a 4 month old who has experienced being at the other end of the system recently.

And I do sympathise - I live in an area with low bf rates and despite my baby being so young, have already experienced the "oh are you still just breastfeeding?" comments from HCPs. The same ones who hammered in "breast is best" at all antenatal sessions hmm It is shocking hypocrisy.

AidanTheRevengeNinja Sun 14-Jul-13 20:52:52

And if you run into a lot of problems, insist on seeing a consultant breast surgeon to discuss the matter with someone who may (although by no means definitely will) be more informed.

abigboydidit Sun 14-Jul-13 20:53:08

Juggling you have just perfectly summarised my issue. Thank you! I may nick that phrase when I call the Doctor..

speak2me Sun 14-Jul-13 20:55:39

I've had something similar, only I had a benign lump - a fibroadenoma ('Breast Mouse') around 8 years before having DS. When I was pregnant I noticed the lump had grown in size & I was advised to wait until I had given birth and started BF to see if it was the same thing or had got smaller again. It didn't get smaller so I had an ultrasound and core gun biopsy (whilst still feeding DS - around 10 weeks old) and they confirmed it was still the fibroadenoma. The conclusion was to go for a further check up a few months after I've finished BF to see if this has allowed the growth to shrink - if not then it will probably be removed as is now classed as a 'giant breast mouse' due to its size. The check up appointment came but as I'm still feeding DS (now nearly 10mths) I have rearranged for next year. My hospital breast clinic were very pro-BF and throughout all appointments there was no mention of me having to stop feeding DS, infact when I called to delay the check up appointment they were very understanding about me continuing to BF.
I think if you can you need to push for ultrasound and a core gun biopsy straight away, hopefully the results from this will mean you can continue to BF your DD.

dumbelina Sun 14-Jul-13 20:56:17

I had a similar experience to you, one core biopsy was inconclusive while I was pregnant and a second one when DS was three months old gave the same result, they said possibly due to still breastfeeding. The healthcare staff were very supportive of me continuing to breastfeed, but they decided to remove the lump. I continued to feed right up until the op, when DS was four months old, stopped for 24 hours due to general anaesthetic. Thankfully the lump proved to be a benign fibroadenoma so once the anaesthetic cleared my system I was able to continue feeding and fed DS till he was 14 months. However I had clear advice from all involved including my Health Visitors and the specialist was very clear that with two inconclusive tests they would remove the lump to be safe. There was no question of getting me to quit breastfeeding and waiting a month or so for the milk to clear and retesting. My specialist basically said it could take months for my breast to return to 'normal' whatever that is so it was best to operate. Hope this helps, best of luck.

MonstersDontCry Sun 14-Jul-13 20:56:26

Could you just feed from one side?

dumbelina Sun 14-Jul-13 20:58:33

Also, you don't say how old you are, but I never had a mammogram as my specialist said they are pretty useless under the age of 40 as the breast tissue is too dense. I had ultrasound and biopsies both times.

Great ! Glad to help !

AidanTheRevengeNinja Sun 14-Jul-13 20:59:11

Sorry to keep posting, I keep thinking of things. Another advantage of being seen by a specialist such as an experienced breast surgeon is that he/she will be able to give you a good clinical assessment which will take into account your overall risk based on family and personal history, clinical features from examining the lump, etc, which will help you decide just how urgent things really are and what your options are. This can be much more valuable than just being put through the protocols. They may even be able to give a diagnosis on clinical grounds if the signs are very clear and bypass the need for investigations.

MsMunch Sun 14-Jul-13 21:01:28

Through work I sometimes meet women who have had to stop bf after being diagnosed with breast cancer and needing drug therapy incompatible with continued bf. These women are often still feeding at the point I meet them so their lactating status hasnt hindered their diagnosis. There will be many others who have had the good news that there is nothing to worry about who are still feeding. I think you will find very different attitudes in different teams.

It seems especially inappropriate to be dismissive of your wish to feed still whilst doing so is helpful to your long term breast health and there are already suspicions that ypur lump will be benign like before.

Good luck with finding what is right for you. If the hospital has a feeding specialist they may be of use to you.

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