Posted by Saraline , Thursday, November 20, 2008 11:27 AM
Getting screened for breast cancer can be difficult for a mother who is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers are often told to wean before having a mammogram due to the difficulty of reading one when a woman is lactating.
When I spoke to a nurse at the breast health center of my local hospital about the possibility of having a mammogram while lactating, she told me that a mammogram of someone in my situation would be 'only about 45% effective' so it wasn't worth having one until after weaning. She delicately suggested that I decide for myself which were more important 'nursing my child or 'having a mammogram you can trust.'
According to breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman, "Mammograms are harder to read when the mother is lactating, but can be done and the mother should not stop breastfeeding just to get this done. Furthermore, there are other ways of investigating a breast lump." One of the other ways is a biopsy, and a group in the U.S. called Army of Women is currently seeking another way to test for breast cancer in lactating mothers.
The purpose of this study is to determine if breast cancer and breast cancer risk can be accurately assessed from a breast milk sample. Currently, there is no accurate way to give women information about their personal risk of developing breast cancer. We will use the cells naturally present in breast milk to examine changes in DNA that occur in association with benign and cancerous breast lesions. Learning about the genetic changes associated with both breast cancer and non-cancerous breast lesions will help us develop a way to provide women with information about their breast cancer risk. Using breast milk to screen for breast cancer will reduce unnecessary biopsies among nursing women.
Women who live in the U.S. and are scheduled to have a breast biopsy are being asked to participate in the study.