Last month, I discovered a suspicious lump in my left breast through a breast self-exam. After the ultrasound, my doctor decided the lump must be biopsied for assessment.
In the evening before the biopsy, looking at my left breast in the mirror, I realized that I don’t worry about cancer—I have a strong family history of breast cancer; I’ve been seeing and hearing close ones being diagnosed with breast cancer ever since I was a little girl; I am well prepared psychologically. I realized, however, that I worry about my future ability to breastfeed.
Jasper was 16-month-old and still being breastfed. My plan was to breastfeed for at least 20 months, ideally for two years. My doctor told me that I don’t have to wean before the biopsy and my ability to breastfeed after the process depends on the extent of the biopsy. After that, it really depends on the test results of the biopsy.
It’s hard to find breastfeeding-friendly information on this topic, so I turned to several of my trusted IBCLC friends for their opinion. Most of them didn’t see any reason why I cannot breastfeed after a biopsy unless the test results found otherwise. I was relieved.
This is what I learned: needle biopsies, including fine-needle aspiration and core biopsy, can be done on a breastfeeding mother. The smallest needle available for the procedure should be used, and the risk of milk fistula, which is chronic milk leakage, is very rare.
The evening after the biopsy—or eight hours after the biopsy, to be precise—I was holding Jasper, breastfeeding as usual. I felt grateful. Jasper was curious about the surgical glue over my incision. He tried to peel it off so I had to put another bandage on top of it. Other than that the biopsy barely caused me any problem in breastfeeding. I felt so grateful.
As the article is being written, I am still waiting for the results of the biopsy and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to breastfeed. For now, I just want to cherish the time with my baby while I still can.
Meanwhile, I realize that breastfeeding is such a gift—both for mom and for the baby. It is a shame that there are still mothers who are completely healthy with breasts fully capable of breastfeeding being driven to infant formula due to a breastfeeding-unfriendly environment. Mothers have the right to breastfeed their babies and deserve full support.
I also realized how hard the feeling can be for a mother who may not be able to breastfeed due to disease. All of a sudden I was even more proud of myself being a breastmilk donor (before the lump was discovered) at the Mother’s Milk Bank.
It is my sincere wish that one day all the mothers will be able to breastfeed as long as they want with the full support from society as a whole. And that all the babies will be able to receive donor milk when the mother’s milk is not available.