A woman discovered that she had breast cancer after her one-year-old refused to nurse from her right breast. Her baby's protests prompted her to get checked out and subsequently treated.
37-year-old Joanne Carr was otherwise healthy when her infant son promptly stopped nursing from her right breast. Baby Dougie altered Joanne to a pea-sized lump that prompted her to seek medical advice. Good thing she did, because Joanne was diagnosed with the most common type of breast cancer, invasive ductal cancer.
Also known as infiltrating ductal carcinoma, Joanne's cancer required eight rounds of chemotherapy. She lost all of her hair and underwent surgery as well, before recovering in April of 2018. Difficult as it was, she may not have caught it soon enough had it not been for Dougie. Joanne says that he is her guardian angel.
Joanne's story brings up the question of whether nursing mothers diagnosed with breast cancer can continue breastfeeding their babies. Bluntly, the answer is no.
According to Dr. Sarah Cate, MD, an assistant professor of breast surgery at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, breastfeeding while undergoing cancer treatment would be too risky for both mother and baby.
Cancer-fighting drug treatments such as hormone therapy and chemotherapy pass through breast milk. The same is true for anesthesia.
Nursing women are at a higher risk when undergoing surgery. Milk production can contribute to swelling and increased blood flow, both of which can cause infection. It is safer for a woman to wean her baby before doctors perform surgery.
The good news is, both pregnant and breastfeeding women can safely get a mammogram done. Pregnant women just need to wait until they complete their first trimester and their stomach should be shielded. Nursing mothers should feed their baby or pump one hour before getting a mammogram.
Always remember to check your breasts for lumps. In Joanne's case, her baby gave her a reminder and we are so glad he did!