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Teresa first felt the lump in her breast while she was breastfeeding her 4 month old daughter Briony. Initially, she dismissed it as being a cyst caused by a thickened milk duct. However, when she mentioned her concerns at Mother’s Group the following week, the advice was the unanimous: “Get it checked at the doctor.” While her doctor thought it might be just a blocked milk duct she referred her for an ultrasound anyway. As a result, Teresa became one of the 13,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Fortunately for Teresa, it was detected early, and she is currently undergoing treatment for it.
It is easy to neglect breast self examinations during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The huge changes to your body and often lack of sleep make it hard to continue doing so. There are also many different lumps in your breast that can occur during this time, including plugged ducts and lipomas.
For women who are breastfeeding, it can be difficult to know if lumps in the breast are harmless or sinister. Dr Duncan Jefferson, the HBF family doctor advises women: “Get it checked. The only good breast lump is an investigated breast lump.” Usually your GP will take what is known as the triple test approach, which includes a breast exam and taking your personal history. This will then be followed up with an ultrasound and a biopsy if required.
If the diagnosis is one of breast cancer it is important to seek support. The Cancer Council in your state will be able to provide you with helpful links and resources at a difficult time. They will be able to help you access help with caring for your children and further information on your treatments. Organisations like Mummy’s Wish in Queensland are especially designed to provide practical support for mums with young children during their treatment.
Sharing this information with your children can be very challenging especially if they are very young. There are some books especially designed for them that can be very helpful to read with them. It will allow them to access this information at a level they can understand.
If you have a friend who is diagnosed with breast cancer it is extremely useful to ensure you are able to provide practical support if needed. Offering to help out with shopping, the school run or keeping your friend’s spirits up is important to their treatment and recovery. You can also be an advocate for your friend by seeking out services for them to use as well.
The crucial thing is to talk to your doctor if you find any lumps you are unsure about. It is important to be pro-active about self breast examination and seek a second opinion if necessary.