Yes, you can absolutely get a mammogram while breastfeeding. In fact, if you are due for a mammogram or one is recommended, you should definitely get one.
Many mothers are concerned that the radiation from this breast health screening will deem their breast milk unsafe, affect their milk supply or be extremely uncomfortable. The truth is that this type of diagnostic test is not dangerous for you or your baby. Mammograms only produce a brief burst of x-rays that pass through your breasts but are not harmful. The same is true for other X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs and PET, CT, CAT and many other scans.
A mammogram while breastfeeding may be harder to read, however. That’s because lactating breasts have denser breast tissue which can make deciphering the x-ray a bit more difficult. You should let your doctor, the mammogram technician and the radiologist know you are breastfeeding so yours is reviewed by a radiologist trained in reading mammograms for breastfeeding women.
You will likely get the best results and experience less pain from the mammogram if you breastfeed or pump immediately before the test. This will help ensure your breast tissue has less milk and your breasts will feel softer, which will be more comfortable as the plates compress your breasts during the x-ray.
Developing breast cancer during pregnancy or while breastfeeding is rare, however you should be aware of the warning signs. They include:
- Lumps that do not resolve themselves within a few weeks, especially after treatments. Your breasts go through many changes during breastfeeding and one of them is that they may seem a bit bumpier thanks to the various channels that are helping you produce milk. Finding a lump does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Most lumps are actually not cancer at all, especially during breastfeeding. Rather, it may be a clogged duct, cyst or benign tumor.
- Most of the time redness is not a symptom of breast cancer but it is of a specific and very serious type called inflammatory breast cancer. More often than not, redness during breastfeeding is a result of a clogged duct or breast infection called mastitis.
- Blood in your milk is concerning for any mom. Usually this is caused by poor latch that leads to nipple trauma. Very seldom it could be a sign of breast cancer in the milk ducts. After visiting a lactation consultant to check your latch, you should seek imaging if the blood continues.
- You know your body best and if you feel there is something abnormal about your breasts, despite all the changes occurring due to breastfeeding, seek advice from your physician.
Sources: Best for Babes, The Bump and La Leche League