Friday, November 7, 2008

SBE when Lactating

It's the first Friday of the month, that time when I remind everybody to do a Self Breast Exam. Feel 'em up folks!
For what it's worth, men can get breast cancer too, so hey, go for it guys, poke around a bit, ok?

OK, so like I mentioned before, with each months reminder I'm trying to add some additional health info. This month (at the request of a commenter) I'm taking on doing SBEs when lactating. Obviously lactation (while reducing the likelihood of future breast cancer) leaves the breasts full of milk, which makes it harder to feel lumps.
The short and simple answer can be found at Breastfeeding123, which recommends doing the self-exams immediately after nursing, so that the breast will be as un-full as possible.
MamaKnowsBreast (Oct 4 entry) agrees that it's good to continue to do self exams when breastfeeding, although there is a good chance that you'll notice tissue changes which are not cancerous. Everyday Health comments that if you have not previously been doing SBEs, then pregnancy or lactating may not be great times to start because your breasts are going through so many changes. On the other hand, if you already have the habit, then it's a good thing to continue.
My own thought is that SBEs could be helpful with those non-cancerous changes too though--for example if you are familiar with the 'normal' feel of your breasts, then if you get a plugged duct you'll be able to quickly recognize the abnormality and address the issue... For the same reason, I think it makes sense for lactating women to do at least 'quick once-over' type exams in the shower on a more frequent basis.
This article is packed with information about breast health during pregnancy and lactation. (Incidentally, you should never have a mammogram while lactating.)

Here are directions for doing a SBE when you are lactating.


Becky said...

Did you take off the button? That made me laugh every time I clicked on your blog!

I'm bad about doing self exams, but maybe it's because I don't know what I'm doing. No excuse for me now, though!

Mommy Bee said...

yes, oh observant one, I did take down the 'feel your boobies' button...if all the buttons are the same all the time, people dont' notice them. I wanted people to notice the new babywearing one, so i shuffled things up a little. :)

Becky N. said...

Thanks for all the tips! You're very good at digging up and consolidating information. :)

What's the deal with mammograms and breastfeeding? Some of those links were saying you can, some that you can't, and you're saying you really shouldn't. Is it just that mammograms don't work well with the denser tissue in the first place, and then affect the milk, too? (I assume it would have to - and how long would that last?? Is that why you shouldn't?)

I didn't do breast exams before I was pregnant the first time. And now, I've been either pregnant or lactating (or both) for over 5 and a half years. So, I kinda have to figure this whole thing out, despite the fact that I have no reference point for normal. Well, normal-not-sustaining-another-human-life normal, at least.

I asked my midwife at my yearly checkup about how to tell beyond milk ducts what might not be normal. She told me that lumps that aren't milk ducts won't move around when you press against them. That was a really helpful thing for me. Because seriously... there are SO MANY LUMPS in a lactating breast!

Tuan's Princess said...

Pssst - you should never have a mammogram at all!

The routine practice of taking four films of each breast annually results in approximately 1 rad (radiation absorbed dose) exposure, about 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray.

Mammography cannot detect a tumor until after it has been growing for years and reaches a certain size. Thermography is able to detect the possibility of breast cancer much earlier, because it can image the early stages of angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the formation of a direct supply of blood to cancer cells, which is a necessary step before they can grow into tumors of size.
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Mommy Bee said...

Concerning mammograms:

There are some really mixed reports on mammograms. As per commenter request (the same request that led to this post actually) I will be talking about mammograms in my next monthly SBE post (first friday of each month). There are those who feel they are invaluable, but from my reading thus far I agree that they are one of the least-useful (and least-safe) methods of detection. I'll be posting more detailed info next month.
All in all, I honestly think that self exams are the single most important thing we can do. Sure, it might miss something, but it's also the most likely to catch things early. I know several women who have had breast cancer, and ALL found lumps during SBEs (most were younger than the age when mammograms are even recommended).

Spicy Magnolia said...

Hi, Mommy Bee! I just wanted to drop a little note to say "thanks"! Thank you so much for leaving a comment on Antique Mommy's blog last week that was on advice for new moms! That post meant so much to me and I've printed out all of the comments to reread again and again. So thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and encourage me and other new moms!

Kimberlee said...

I have heard that more important that monthly exams is breast familiarity. Just being familiar with your own. So when there are changes, you can recognize them.

I have a lump that comes and goes with my cycle. But because I know this (now, it gave us a bit of a scare).

So, it isn't just your once a month exam, but making sure you are familiar with the changes through out the cycle.

The Thalman's said...

I once found a lump in my breast while doing a SBE. It turned out to only be a cyst, but I'm glad I was aware enough of the feel of my breasts that I could identify a foreign lump!

I must say, a mammogram while lactating put the most hilarious image in my head! I may be laughing all day because of it!!! It may work better than a pump, don't you think? hehehe!

Beth said...

Thanks for posting tht helpful information!

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