Is It Safe And Feasible To Breastfeed After Surviving Breast Cancer?

It's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let's discuss breastfeeding after cancer. During a recent small study, researchers pooled data...
It's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let's discuss breastfeeding after cancer. During a recent small study, researchers pooled data from the European Institute of Oncology database for women aged 40 years or younger at breast cancer diagnosis who later gave birth. What they found is that half of the breast cancer survivors did not breastfeed mainly because their doctor at the time, expressed uncertainty regarding maternal safety and the feasibility of breastfeeding after cancer. But is it out of the question to breastfeed after beating breast cancer? Basically it depends. The type of breast surgery performed and post-delivery lactation counseling were two of the biggest factors associated with successful long-term breastfeeding after cancer. Women who had breast-conserving surgery (mastectomy or lumpectomy) during their treatments had an increased chance of successful breastfeeding. While for years people have questioned the feasibility of breastfeeding after cancer survival, Hatem Azim, MD., of the department of medical oncology, Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels, notes, “Breastfeeding is a very normal aspect of life... it is a pity that women are denied the opportunity to experience normal motherhood and newborns are denied the endless benefits of lactation due to fears not based on any evidence. Denying breast cancer survivors the opportunity to become pregnant or breastfeed remains unjustified in the absence of supporting evidence.” On the flip side, the Susan G Komen organization notes that, "Breastfeeding from an untreated breast should be fairly normal. However, feeding from the treated breast following lumpectomy plus radiation may be difficult. Both the surgery and radiation therapy can harm tissue needed for breastfeeding. While feeding from the treated breast is possible (and the milk is safe for the baby), it is not common and the amount of milk produced is often greatly reduced." So far the research we have on breastfeeding after breast cancer seems few and far between, with not enough research to say that yes or no, breast cancer survivors can or cannot breastfeed. points out that breast milk after cancer treatments is safe though - so long as you aren't going through chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, and still have a breast, your milk is safe and healthy for your baby. All of this said, if you become pregnant after beating breast cancer, the best plan is to start planning early. Such as talk to your midwife or doctor about your breastfeeding wishes. Note, if you're not someone who has been affected by breast cancer, you should be aware that breastfeeding can help prevent breast cancer, and there's hard evidence backing this up. Also see:

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