Breast cancer and breastfeeding: it is possible?
Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in the female population 1 . Breast cancer can develop even at a young age, which is why a good portion of women who have received this diagnosis, after treatment and after overcoming the disease, may wish to have a child and experience the excitement of pregnancy.
One of the most frequently asked questions
One of the most frequently asked questions that women experiencing pregnancy after a cancer is: is it possible to breastfeed the baby naturally? Importantly, breastfeeding after cancer is not only possible, but should be encouraged by gynecologists and pediatricians.
Breast cancer is a serious disease, and if it is not diagnosed in its early stages, it can seriously endanger a woman's life. The tumor develops from the uncontrolled proliferation of certain cells in the mammary gland. To date, there are some known risk factors associated with this disease: age (older than 50), menarche before age 12, first pregnancy after age 30, menopause after age 50, not having had children, familiaritỳ to heritable genetic mutations 1 . Genetic predisposition is definitely the risk factor that can most determine the onset of the disease’s occurrence.
Ѐ it is now recognized that genetic mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are highly correlated with the occurrence of cancer. In fact, as many as 50% of cases of inherited forms of breast cancer are due to these mutations. 1
In Italy, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer in different age groups: 0-49 years (41%), 50-60 years (35%), after 70 years (22%).
Although the incidence rate is increasing, the mortality rate for breast cancer is decreasing due to the increased prevalence of screening programs for early detection and to the progress in treatment of the disease. In fact, as of today, survival at five years after diagnosis in Italy is’87%. 2
Many women who give birth after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are worried, believing they cannot breastfeed naturally and do not have enough milk. These fears are completely unfounded. In fact, the amount of milk produced will surely be sufficient, as even one breast is enough to breastfeed.
In addition, there is no danger to the baby because no passage of cancer cells from mother to baby via milk has been demonstrated. 3
Not much research has been done on breastfeeding from the operated breast, however, in most cases, milk production seems to be reduced. However, it remains possible to try to have the baby attached to the operated breast taking into account maternal desire, nipple conformation, and the type of surgery and treatments one has undergone. In addition, for women who have radiological checkups while breastfeeding, it will be sufficient to follow certain precautions such as, for example, draining the breast prior to the checkups. 3
It is known that breastfeeding naturally offers great benefits for mother and baby
It is well known that breastfeeding naturally offers great benefits for mother and baby: breastfeeding is a source of nourishment and security for the newborn and provides an opportunitỳ for the mother to create a special bond with her child. Ѐ appropriate, however, that women who breastfeed after a diagnosis of malignancy be properly followed by medical specialists. This is especially important in the early stages, so you can be sure to get proper stimulation and emptying of one or both breasts.
To this end, it may be convenient to try multiple positions for proper breastfeeding and find the right attachment to facilitate feeding. 3
Ѐ it is possible to know one’s genetic predisposition to the occurrence of breast cancer through a genetic screening tests. The BRCA Source test is a simple, quick and painless screening test that can detect the presence of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are responsible for breast cancer and ovarian cancer in 5-10% of diagnosed cases. The test is performed on a simple blood draw.
This genetic test is also useful for those who have alreadỳ been diagnosed with cancer or those who have family cases of breast or ovarian cancer.
The results can provide information about causes and future risks, so that a woman can pursue prevention paths and targeted medical treatment.