Researchers presented a report at the 35th Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology that may take a few oncologists by surprise. Women who have been treated for breast cancer are fully capable of breastfeeding after treatment. Many oncologists and obstetricians continue to suggest or advise women not to breastfeed after breast cancer therapy. According to researchers and authors, there is no connection between breast cancer recurrence and breast feeding.

The study involved 20 women, 10 of which chose to breast feed and 10 who chose not to breastfeed. Of the two groups, one woman from each group suffered a relapse of breast cancer. Patients were followed for a total of four years.

What concerned study authors and presenters the most, was the high rate of women who were counseled not to breast feed by attending physicians. Dr. Hatem Azim is a lead author of the study. "It is a pity that women are denied the opportunity to experience normal motherhood and newborns are denied the endless benefits of lactation due to fears not based on any evidence," Dr Azim said.

Women should note that breast conservation surgery can affect breastfeeding on the altered breast. Reduced milk production and painful latching are the two most common concerns. It is important to note, however, that women who underwent breast conservation surgery reported being more successful at breastfeeding when compared to peers.

Researchers agreed the study population was small, but figuring in the small number of women who survive breast cancer and give birth afterward leads to a smaller population of women to study.


Source: European Society for Medical Oncology. 14 October, 2010.