Can I get a mammogram while breastfeeding?

by Dr. Fotis Kosmatopoulos

Mammography is without doubt a life-saving test for the prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer – the most common cancer in women. But what happens when a woman is breastfeeding? Can she get a mammogram?

The main goal of breast lumps evaluation during lactation is to exclude malignancy. Although, according to the international literature, breast cancer is not commonly found in breastfeeding or pregnant women, any suspicious findings in the breasts should be investigated further. This is why every woman should consult her doctor immediately, who, based on the clinical examination, will decide whether she needs to undergo more specialized tests (e.g., ultrasound, mammography, etc.).

A common and legitimate question we receive from breastfeeding mothers who are referred for mammography is whether radiation affects milk production and consequently the baby in any way. The available data do not show that ionizing radiation affects the production or even the quality of breast milk. The radiation dose for the test, especially when done on a modern mammography machine, is very small and there is no risk to the baby if it is breastfed after the test.

It should be noted that if there are no suspicious lumps, then mammography is recommended to be performed after the cessation of breastfeeding for the breasts to return to their normal state. Due to the hormones that regulate milk production, the breasts become denser during lactation, which often makes it difficult to interpret the result of the test.

On the other hand, the latest digital mammography technology offers high-resolution images with greater clarity, which can give an accurate picture even in the case of lactating breasts. A useful tool in these cases is the 3D tomosynthesis technology, which is integrated in the digital mammograph, which offers higher accuracy in dense breasts, detecting early lesions or even small suspicious lesions.

If a woman needs to have a mammogram during breastfeeding, she should reduce the milk contained in her breasts to make the examination less painful and the imaging clearer.

Palpable lumps in the breast during breastfeeding are a diagnostic challenge

both clinically and imaging. It is extremely important that women consult their doctor, as he or she is the only one who can judge whether a finding needs to be investigated.

We must not forget that prevention and early diagnosis saves lives!

*Specialist RadiologistAlpha Evresis Diagnostic Center, Bioiatriki Healthcare Group in Cyprus