Breastfeeding is a mother’s gift to her child and herself – there are innumerable advantages of breastfeeding to both the mother & child but sometimes mothers can face some difficulties during breastfeeding. One of them is the development of breast lumps during breastfeeding.
Breast lumps during breastfeeding can not only lead to anxiety in the mother but can sometimes be a sign of something as ominous as cancer. The common causes are:
Milk collection (Galactocele) – this is probably the most common cause of breast lumps in breastfeeding mothers. It commonly occurs due to a blocked duct and the patient can feel a painful lump in the breast. It can sometimes also occur, if breast milk is not emptied at regular intervals.
Management of a galactocele/ milk collection can range from emptying of breast milk either by feeding or by using a breast pump. Hot fomentation/ gentle massage also works well in this condition. If the problem occurs frequently, then one should consult a lactation expert/ doctor for further evaluation
Breast abscess/ mastitis – this is inflammation of the breast tissue which can progress to pus formation as well. It is secondary to a bacterial infection and you would be surprised to know that the source of the bacteria is the child’s mouth. These bacteria can enter through the nipple (more common in ladies with cracked/ sore nipples) and lead to infection.
Patient usually develops intense pain in the breast, which can be associated with redness and fever as well. If one notices any such symptoms, they should visit their breast surgeon immediately. In the initial stages, this condition is managed using antibiotics. In case, pus develops, then the surgeon is left with no option but to drain the pus out by performing a minor surgery. If the abscess is very large, your doctor might also recommend stopping breastfeeding using a drug.
Breast cancer – can sometimes be detected during breastfeeding. These lumps can initially be mistaken for a milk collection but unlike milk collections, they don’t respond to simple measures and keep on increasing in size. Sometimes these lumps might even be painless.
Due to these two reasons, cancers can often increase in size before they are detected in breastfeeding mothers.
If a mother notices a lump in the breast during breastfeeding, which does not settle in a few days, she should immediately visit a breast cancer surgeon and get herself evaluated. If the surgeon is suspecting a cancer, they will order an ultrasound followed by a needle biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
These are some of the common causes of breast lumps during lactation. It is good to be aware of these lumps and one should not delay meeting a doctor in case they notice such problems. Having said this, majority of the mothers have an uneventful lactation period.
Over the last few years it has been seen that mothers are reducing the duration of breastfeeding due to professional commitments. Given all the advantages of breastfeeding for the mother and the child, this world breastfeeding week all ladies should pledge to complete breastfeeding at least for 6-8 months.
This information has been provided by
Principal Consultant, Breast Cancer Surgeon
CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon