Breast Cancer and Breast/chestfeeding

October is famously breast cancer awareness month. We see everything from t-shirts to yogurt donning a pink ribbon to promote the big messages of the month:

-Risk reduction (eg. not using tobacco products)
-Monthly self exam
-Annual checks with your provider

You may already know that breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing breast cancer long term. Did you know it takes about 20 years to see the protective effect?

People who become pregnant also have a lowered risk, long term, of developing breast cancer. Basically, the fewer menstrual cycles you have, the lower your risk of breast cancer. In the short term, however, people who have been pregnant may be at risk for cancer.

Because of that risk, recommendations for screenings including mammograms may change depending on your personal and family history.

While we should all be doing monthly breast self exams, we may also need to check with our providers regarding more frequent medical exams and mammograms.

Screening mammograms are well known to improve survival in breast cancer, and this impact is most significant for women 40 to 50 years old. 

The American College of Radiology (ACR) recommends considering yearly screening during pregnancy and lactation for the following women:

  • under the age of 30 who are at high risk for breast cancer
  • 30-39 who are intermediate to high risk of breast cancer
  • over the age of 40 at average risk for breast cancer

Mammograms are totally safe to do while pregnant and lactating! You should express your milk before the procedure but there’s not need to “pump and dump” after.

As always, check with your provider if you have concerns or notice any changes to your breasts.

❤ Megan Dunn, IBCLC

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