The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.
Teresa first felt the lump in her breast while she was breastfeeding her 4-month-old daughter Briony. Initially, she dismissed it as being a cyst caused by a thickened milk duct. However, when she mentioned her concerns at her mom’s group the following week, the advice was unanimous: Get it checked by a provider.
While her doctor thought it might be just a blocked milk duct, she referred her for an ultrasound anyway. In the United States, it is estimated almost 290,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2022. Fortunately for Teresa, her cancer was detected early, and she is currently undergoing treatment for it.
It is easy to neglect breast self-examinations during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The huge changes to your body and often lack of sleep make it hard to continue doing so. There are also many different lumps in your breast that can occur during this time, including plugged ducts and lipomas.
For women who are breastfeeding, it can be difficult to know if lumps in the breast are harmless or sinister. The only “good” breast lump is an investigated breast lump. Usually, your provider will take your personal history and do a breast exam. This will then be followed up with an ultrasound and a biopsy if required.
If the diagnosis is one of breast cancer it is important to seek support.
Sharing information about breast cancer with your children can be very challenging, especially if they are very young. There are some books especially designed for them that can be very helpful to read with them. It will allow them to access this information at a level they can understand.
If you have a friend who is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is extremely useful to ensure you can provide practical support if needed. Offer to help with shopping, the school run or to keep your friend's spirits up. It is important to their treatment and recovery. You can also be an advocate for your friend by seeking services for them to use as well.
The crucial thing is to talk to your doctor if you find any lumps you are unsure about. It is important to be pro-active about self-breast examination and seek a second opinion if necessary.