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Keep Your Annual Appointment: Mammograms and Breastfeeding

POSTED BY: Samantha Stinson

Pam Oldham was receiving routine annual mammograms since she was 30.  She skipped a mammogram one year because she had a son and was breastfeeding.  When she went the following year to resume her annual mammogram exam, she discovered she had stage four breast cancer.  “I thought I would just wait until the following year,” says Pam. 

Many women choose to breastfeed for a variety of reasons.  Breastfeeding has huge benefits to a child’s health.  However, it is important for the mother to monitor her own health as well.  Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women.  It is important for nursing mothers to continue receiving screening mammograms, even while breastfeeding. 

According to Dr. Jennie Yoon, Medical Director of women’s imaging at Radiology Specialists of Florida (RSF), a baseline screening mammogram should start at 35-40 years of age if you do not have a family history of breast cancer.  Beginning at 40, mammograms should be annual.  If you are due for your mammogram, it is important not to postpone it because you are breastfeeding.  “It is completely safe for breastfeeding mothers to have mammograms,” says Dr. Yoon. 

You may have some concerns about having a mammogram while nursing including:

Will a mammogram affect my breast milk and make it unsafe for my child?

Truth is, it is completely safe for your baby if you have a mammogram while breastfeeding.  X-rays do not affect the mother’s milk.  You may resume breastfeeding immediately after the exam.  Mammograms, ultrasounds, and X-rays will not interfere with breastfeeding and are completely harmless to your child. 

Does lactation affect the results of my mammogram?

A lactating breast can make it more difficult to read the results of the exam.  The milk production in the breast causes the breast tissue to become denser.  It is recommended to bring your child with you to the exam to feed immediately before the scan to reduce the amount of milk in the breast tissue, resulting in a clearer image.  You may want to request a radiologist that is experienced in reading mammograms of lactating breasts for better results. 

Will the mammogram hurt more because my breasts are particularly sensitive while breastfeeding?

You may find that breastfeeding can make your breasts more tender.  You may experience some discomfort during your mammogram.  Inform your technician so proper steps can be taken to make the exam as comfortable as possible. 

It can be difficult for women to detect a small lump through a breast self exam while nursing because her breasts are larger and filled with milk.  A mammogram can detect suspicious tissue as small as a grain of rice that could be undetectable with a breast self exam.  Pam is now a cancer survivor because she made the decision to be screened, but early detection is the best protection.  One year can be the difference between stage one and stage four.  Give yourself peace of mind and schedule your mammogram today! Schedule your mammogram or call (407) 303-7500.