Mammogram while breastfeeding: Is it safe?
Mammography is a technique that uses minimal radiations to draw an image of your breasts. Since the radiations are in the minimal quantity you can get a mammogram while breastfeeding as well as during pregnancy without any risk. However, it is hard to read a mammogram of a breastfeeding female as it has dense breast tissue which hinders proper visualization.
You can use a breast pump to drain your milk twenty to thirty minutes before taking a mammogram as it will reduce the density and markedly improve the results.
Why you need a mammogram while breastfeeding?
The biggest reason females undergo a mammogram while breastfeeding is when they feel a lump in their breast. Now, this lump can be a benign disease or breast cancer and the best initial test is to perform a mammogram.
Normally there is no need to do any test as long as you are healthy. Unfortunately, this is not the case with breast cancer. Although it has a greater risk in females with a past history or a positive family history breast cancer can develop in a healthy female with no family history. The best way to cope with such a situation is to go for early screening.
What happens is that when you are lactating, your breast tissue develops rapidly under the influence of the hormones. These hormones also accelerate the growth of the breast lump. The lump which wasn’t palpable before is now palpable due to an increase in the size.
It is important to note here that breast cancer rarely develops during breastfeeding or pregnancy. In fact, breastfeeding your child is the best prevention against breast cancer and it should be encouraged.
Breast cancer diagnosis and screening
Since breast cancer is leading cancer in the females a lot of emphases is made on its screening and diagnosis. A usual screening plan involves a yearly mammogram after the age of 40 years. However, the starting year can be pushed earlier depending upon the presence of risk factors or not. The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is a positive family history.
However, proper diagnosis and staging require extensive testing including; MRI, biopsy, and genetic testing. The aim is to diagnose breast cancer at an early stage where it has the best prognosis as compared to a late stage with dangerous consequences.
Mammogram while breastfeeding: Your choice?
It may seem like you have a choice whether you want the test now or after the breastfeeding and due to your concerns regarding safety you are inclining towards delaying the test after the breastfeeding. However, you should have a detailed physical examination by a physician and follow his or her instructions.
There are certain things which can help you decide whether you should go for an early mammogram or you can wait. The things which indicate an early mammogram includes:
Positive family history
A positive family history of breast cancer especially the first degree relatives including; your mother, sister, or daughter should be evaluated early.
Rapidly growing lump
A rapidly growing lump is always a bad sign. You can appreciate the change in size easily and some lumps even show a noticeable increase in size on a daily basis.
A lump that is fixed to the skin or underlying tissue mostly represents cancer. It indicates a bad prognosis as well.
If you find multiple lumps you shouldn’t take it lightly. Usually, a single lump doesn’t always turn out to be breast cancer but multiple lumps are associated with higher chances of breast cancer.
Associated swelling in the armpit
A lump associated with swelling in your armpit. It very possibly means the involvement of the lymph nodes and indicates an advanced stage of breast cancer.
Lump not resolving
Females tend to develop lumps inside their breast tissue. However, not every lump is cancer. Most of the lumps resolve on their own within a week. However, a lump not disappearing within a week should be evaluated.
The lump is hard or firm.
The lump is painful. You can feel the pain itself or you feel the pain when you touch it.
Blood in milk
There is blood coming out of the nipple. This is a dangerous sign and you should not be ignored.
Redness of the overlying skin is a sign of cancer involving the skin.
Any such condition demands an immediate physical examination by an expert physician and the decision of a mammogram should be made with his consultation.
Tips for mammogram while breastfeeding
Here is how you can increase both your comfort and results of mammogram while breastfeeding:
- The test shows the best results when the breasts are empty. For that, you can either bring your baby with you and nourish him just before the test or use a breast pump to empty your breasts.
- You should tell your technician about your lactation so that he can make the necessary adjustments to improve the quality of the results.
- Try to find a specialist in radiology who can understand your condition and read the test better.
- Don’t worry about your or your baby’s health. This test is absolutely safe and only a minimal amount of radiations reach you.
To conclude it, a mammogram while breastfeeding is absolutely safe and if necessary should not be postponed. Consult a good physician and plan it so that your breasts are empty at the time of the test to avoid any discrepancy due to dense breast tissue at the time of lactation.