Surgery for Benign Breast Conditions Safe for Breastfeeding Moms

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Benign breast disease is very common in women of child-bearing age. In fact, nearly one million women are diagnosed with a benign breast condition in the U.S. every year. If you had surgery for a non-cancerous breast condition, you may be concerned that the surgery could interfere with your ability to breastfeed your baby.

If you have a breast condition that could benefit from surgery, both you and your surgeon may struggle over the risks and benefits of surgery. You may decide to delay surgery until after breastfeeding. Surgeons may worry that a surgical procedure will disturb the delicate ducts and nerves in breast tissue that are needed for breastfeeding.

If you are concerned about a benign breast condition or surgery, a new study from researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, presented at the 2020 meeting of the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress is good news for you and your surgeon.  There have been few previous studies that have looked at breastfeeding after breast surgery for benign breast conditions. This study included 85 women between the ages of 18 and 45, and found that surgery had no effect on breastfeeding.

The study included women who had surgery for benign breast conditions such as breast cysts, benign growths, reduction surgery for large breasts (reduction mammoplasty), and breast implant surgery or breast augmentation. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), common benign lumps in the breast include cysts and growths called fibroadenomas. Although these may sometimes go away on their own, cysts may need to be drained or removed and fibroadenomas may need to be removed if they are large or growing.

The researchers used a questionnaire called the Mother and Infant Lactation Questionnaire to gather information about breastfeeding experience. Of the 85 women in the study, 16 reported that they had surgery from 6 weeks to several years before breastfeeding. Fifteen women had a benign breast condition that did not require surgery. The rest of the women did not report a benign condition or a history of surgery.

Of the 85 women in the study, eight out of ten had a successful breastfeeding experience. The 80 percent success rate was the same for women who had surgery, had a benign breast condition, or did not have a benign condition or surgery. Overall satisfaction for breastfeeding was about the same in all women.

Because their study is one of the few studies to explore the effect of non-cancer surgery on breastfeeding, the researchers are continuing to gather information. They hope that their findings will reassure women, primary care providers, and surgeons that treating benign breast conditions with surgery does not impact breastfeeding, and that surgery should not be withheld if it would benefit a young woman of child bearing age.

Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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