Breast self-exams can help spot a breastfeeding issue as much as it can help spot breast cancer.
Should you self-examine when breastfeeding?
- Performing breast self-exams at home reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer
- Breastfeeding reduces your lifetime risk of breast cancer BUT you can still get breast cancer even if you’re breastfeeding
Does a lump mean I have cancer?
- Lumps in your breast aren’t always cancer especially when breastfeeding, when other more common issues may be the cause
- BUT always see your doctor if you notice a breast lump!
What could a lump otherwise be?
- Engorgement (breast full of milk) – relieved by regular feeds or pumping
- Plugged milk duct – massage lump gently during feeding
- Infection (mastitis) or abscess – see your doctor who may offer antibiotics
- Benign cyst – may disappear itself
Is a lump all I have to look out for?
- Breast cancer can also present with nipple changes (inversion, eczema-like rash), dimpling or puckering of skin
- Breastfeeding can also cause these changes (due to hormones, latching technique) – see your doctor if worried
It’s always best to examine your breasts during and after a feed so you can spot anything new.
During a feed:
- Use your free hand to gently examine your breast.
- Any tender spots? Is one area warmer than the rest of your skin?
After a feed:
- Grab a towel! (Milk may make it messy)
- Have a look in the mirror for any changes in your breasts – place your hands behind your head and then on your waist
- Get comfortable (lying or standing) and pop one hand behind your head
- With the other hand, feel all around your breast in a circular motion, feel for any lumps in your armpit, feel for any changes on the nipple
See a doctor if you notice anything unusual!