By Chrissie Russell
My mum had breast cancer. Instantly I want to release a load of disclaimers: It was caught early, she didn’t need chemo, she was fine, she *is* fine. A torrent of qualifying statements comes rushing out of me wanting to wash away the ugliness of that word.
But when a doctor I visited last year told me she felt a lump and she was referring me to the breast clinic, the memory of my mum’s illness was the first thought that surfaced in my mind.
“It’s probably nothing, try not to worry,” said the doctor. And with that phrase that no doubt heralds the start of a thousand anxious women’s journeys, I was swept into the breast health system.
I’m not usually one to skip ahead and miss out on a dramatic build-up but let me save the suspense: I was fine. I am fine. This is not a cancer story. I was promptly screened, mamogrammed and biopsied and that doctor’s opening salvo turned out to be prophetic, it was nothing…although I did worry.
But I worried a lot more because I was breastfeeding and told I should stop.
This week marks World Breastfeeding Week and there will probably be plenty written about tips and things mum wished they’d known. There’ll be inflammatory articles designed to whip up the so-called mommy wars (despite the fact that the only place these battles seem to take place is on paper) and debates on the do’s and don’ts of public feeding.
But breastfeeding and biopsies…that’s not a sexy topic.
When I was facing the prospect of having a large needle stuck into my lactating breast I headed instantly to Google and found…very little. Perhaps it’s because there’s only a small overlap between women breastfeeding and women needing biopsies. Breastfeeding is supposed to reduce your risk of breast cancer but that’s not to say it will always ward it off. Nevertheless, there’s a dearth of research and even online anecdote around what to do should you find yourself breastfeeding and needing a biopsy.