Long-- Quitting breastfeeding to have surgery — The Bump
January 2016 Moms

Long-- Quitting breastfeeding to have surgery

I've been lucky enough to be able to successfully breastfeed my son with very few issues, unlike my daughter where I quit after like 2 weeks. The reason I *need* to quit is because I'm considered high risk for breast cancer due to a strong family history and I'm electing to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction. A little backstory: my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36 and died at age 39. I was 14 and my twin brothers were only 12 when she was diagnosed and I remember her going through chemo and several other treatments over the course of 3.5 years while the cancer came back two more times and eventually took her life. It was a horrible few years to say the least. Anyways, This past year I had a full panel of genetic testing done and I have a 34% chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime. At first I didn't think that was too high (12% is for the average woman, 20% is I considered high risk) but when I thought of it has a 1 in 3 chance, I'm like NO WAY am I risking it-- especially now that I have kids! I don't ever want them to go through what my brothers and I went through. Around 4-5 months pregnant with my son I met with a breast surgeon and we agreed that once I was done breastfeeding I'd have the surgery. Since I'm a teacher it makes sense to have the surgery over the summer, so I was thinking early June. In my mind my goal for ebf was 3 months, which will be April 2nd. Here's where I'm feeling guilty. I like bf and it's going well and if I wasn't having this surgery I wouldn't be quitting yet. Yes, I could wait until next summer to have this done but I just feel like with the information I have and the family history of it developing at an early age, I feel like I HAVE TO get it done ASAP. What would you do? Wait or do it now?

Re: Long-- Quitting breastfeeding to have surgery

  • Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story.  I'm so sorry about your mom, and can't imagine losing her at such a young age.  I think it is very wise that you did the genetic testing.  I think more women with a familial history should do it, since it's such a deadly cancer.  It's so hard to say what exactly I would do in your situation.  I too have had such a wonderful breastfeeding experience, and it has created such a strong bond between me and my son that the thought of letting it go would break my heart.  It's a tough situation to be in.  

    As as a medical professional I will tell you this, statistics show that women who breastfeed have a significantly less chance of developing breast cancer since it opposes estrogen.  I would assume that while you Are breastfeeding, your chances of developing breast cancer are slim.  If breastfeeding is that important to you, you may consider holding off until you feel that you have fulfilled your breastfeeding experience. After all, this will be the last time you get to experience it.

    Have you talked with your provider about the risks while you're still breastfeeding? You could always wait until the winter holidays to have the surgery, that way your LO would have almost a year of breastfeeding.  By that time your baby will be eating solids and not really needing much breast milk anyways.  I think that is probably what I would do.  
  • I agree with pp but would add these 2 questions: does breast feeding for the next 3-9 months make a big difference in the health of your LO when formula is available? Does breast feeding for those months out weigh the *potential* for an early diagnosis of cancer? Only you can answer those questions. 

    Personally, I would continue with the surgery in June because the benefits of surgery are better than breast feeding for the next few months in my opinion.  I lost my mom when she was 49 and I was 22 and if there is any chance of me dying of what she died from, I would do everything I could to prevent it so I could be with my kids longer. 
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  • Wow. I have no idea what I would do if I were in your situation, but I commend you for being so proactive with your health! I will keep you and your family in my thoughts for a speedy recovery and a long, healthy life.
  • I would get the surgery. No doubt about it. Your child is best off with you in his/her life. Breast or bottle doesn't come close to cancer or no cancer. Good luck, momma!! 
  • Good luck with your journey. You can always pump as much as you can now to stock up a freezer supply to continue to give LO your milk for a few months longer as you transition to formula if you choose surgery for this summer.
  • Vamason89 said:
    I would get the surgery. No doubt about it. Your child is best off with you in his/her life. Breast or bottle doesn't come close to cancer or no cancer. Good luck, momma!! 
    This is exactly what I was thinking. Of course, breastfeeding is healthy for you and baby and creates a great bond, but you can still bond without it. Your baby cannot bond with you if you aren't there... Personally, I'd much rather do the surgery and better my chances to watch my baby grow up than to worry about breastfeeding vs formula feeding. 

    Best of luck to you and your family! You are incredibly strong for going through what your already have, let alone to make these choices for your future! 
  • I have also been fortunate that BFing is going really well, but I would not hesitate for one second to stop to get the surgery. Keeping you healthy (both in terms of cutting your cancer risk and cutting your anxiety about cancer by taking steps to minimize the risk) is way more important.  You are doing the right thing and should feel 0 guilt.  
  • Gonna be honest, my first thought was "of course, just wait till next year & enjoy this time with baby". Get a mammo every 6 months till next summer and risks will be decreased with breastfeeding. But then I started thinking about how sore I was after my breast surgery (totally elective & years before I had babies) and I definitely wouldn't have been able to lift my 18 month old for a couple weeks. That would have been miserable for both of us. So if I were you, I'd rather do it now when LO is young, lighter and won't be so heartbroken about you not picking him up. Next summer you'll have an 18 month old that will be heartbroken and not understand why he can't climb on mommy and why she won't just pick him up! I like PP suggestion of doing a lot of pumping and saving up milk to keep LO on BM a bit longer. Best of luck to you with whatever you decide! 
  • I would have the surgery. With your chances, there is no reason to risk it. It's tough that BFing going so well and you have to end it but you will still have that bond with him no matter if it's breast or bottle feeding. I think when it comes to your health it's really a no-brainer. He needs you in his life and if you're not there in years to come because of cancer, that extra 6 months of breastfeeding won't seem important in comparison. It's great you're being proactive.

    I'm sorry to hear about your Mom. My mother died when I was 24 suddenly and if I can prevent the same outcome in myself, I will. It's just not as easy to detect your risk for early heart attack.

    Vincent 1.1.16 & Daniel 11.6.07
    In Memory of Barbara <3 , beloved mother and grandmother
  • MamaHollandMamaHolland member
    250 Love Its 100 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited March 2016
    It seems your situation will qualify you forecast milk through the breastmilk bank. You could have your surgery & still feed breastmilk to the baby. Insurance may cover it. I hope all goes well. You are very courageous. 
  • l4rkl4rk member
    500 Love Its 500 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    If it were me, my age would actually be a big factor. I imagine 34% is your lifetime risk, rather than risk within the next yea If I were in my 20's, I would continue breastfeeding but if I were older, I would highly consider the surgery.
  • I would also elect for the surgery. Your LO will be getting fed either way, and if this surgery can give you extra time with your kids or keep you from getting cancer all together it is definitely worth it. So sorry about your mom - My mom also died of breast cancer and I know I would do anything to have her here longer. Good luck to you during the surgery whenever you decide to have it, you are incredibly brave for taking this step! 
  • I would have the surgery. As pp mentioned, LO is so small now which would make recovery a little easier. I would also pump as much as I can now and also look into milk banks and other forms of donations.  Human milk 4 human babies has a Facebook page for each state where you can submit a request for milk and hopefully someone donates to you. Whatever your decision,  I wish you nothing but the best!
    Lilypie First Birthday tickers
    Lilypie - FiGB
    Married DH 11/15/08
    Formerly MissMheMhe
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