Breast Problems After Breastfeeding
Should I Be Screened for Breast Problems if I'm Breastfeeding?
Most breast problems after breastfeeding are cosmetic changes, not real medical concerns. But it's wise to stay up-to-date on your regular breast screenings to ensure your breast health.
Breast self-exams are a simple way to monitor your own breast health and breast changes. Examine your breasts once a month, even while breastfeeding. It's especially important to examine your breast in the months after you stop breastfeeding as the shape and size of your breasts change. Report any lumps or unusual nipple discharge to your doctor. Most lumps are benign, meaning they are not cancer. But they still should be screened for breast cancer.
A breast exam by your doctor can evaluate whether a breast problem after breastfeeding needs medical attention. Have your doctor perform a breast exam once a year or any time you notice unusual breast changes after breastfeeding.
A mammogram (breast X-ray) can diagnose a lump too small for you to feel. If you have a breast problem after breastfeeding, your doctor may advise a mammogram right away rather than waiting for your regularly scheduled yearly or biannual mammogram. It's also safe to have a mammogram while breastfeeding if you need one. It won't affect your milk or your baby's health.
Call your doctor if you have any of these breast problems:
- A lump in your breast
- A red, sore lump that may feel hot to the touch, which could be a plugged milk duct
- Dimpling or puckering of your breast
- Fever or flu symptoms, which could indicate a breast infection (called mastitis)
- Nipple retraction (the nipple turned inward)
- Painful breasts (more than the discomfort related to breastfeeding)
- Rash on your breast
- Unusual nipple discharge or a bleeding nipple
A positive note: Breastfeeding actually decreases your risk of breast cancer. Women who have never breastfed have a slightly higher risk of the disease.
What's the Treatment for Misshapen or Asymmetric Breasts?
When breast size or shape changes radically after breastfeeding, some women consider cosmetic surgery. A breast lift, called a mastopexy, can be performed to reduce sagging and to reposition the nipple and areola (the dark circle around the nipple) higher on the breast. A thorough evaluation by a qualified cosmetic surgeon, including a complete breast health history, is advised before you consider surgery.