If you’ve been advised to have a mammogram, what should you do if you’re breastfeeding? The short answer, according to the American College of Radiology is: The mammogram can still be done if someone is lactating or breastfeeding.
This post covers a few common topics and misconceptions about mammograms and breastfeeding. The key points are also available in a downloadable PDF at the end of this post, for those who need another way to share this information.
What is a mammogram and who might need one?
Mammograms are x-rays of the breasts to screen for breast cancer. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends screening mammograms starting at age 40 for most women.
Some people need screening at even younger ages. (A person’s physician will know when to start these screening mammograms, taking into account individual risk and history).
What if someone is breastfeeding at age 40 or beyond? Can they still get a mammogram?
Yes. A lactating person can still get a mammogram.
Of course, the decision of when and whether to get a mammogram is up to each person and their physician. However, the American College of Radiology (ACR) offers some general information.
In their publication, the American College of Radiology states “There is no contraindication to performing mammography during lactation.” In other words, it’s okay to get a mammogram while breastfeeding.
Dr. Elena Shea MD, IBCLC (who helped review this article) agrees, “Mammograms are necessary and lactating is not a contraindication . . . Women need to come armed with information to fight the misinformation out there. [I] can’t tell you how many moms I know who tell me they were turned away.”
What if a breastfeeding woman has specific concerns about cancer?
Screening mammograms are for people with no specific symptoms or lumps.
If someone has any symptoms, they should tell their physician. This includes, lumps, rashes, or any other changes to the breasts. This way, they can have a proper physical exam. If a diagnostic test is needed, the correct test or study can be arranged.
Other tests may be needed, so it’s worth noting that both magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) and ultrasounds can also be done on breastfeeding people.
Does breastfeeding affect mammogram results?
During lactation, breasts may appear more “dense” on a mammogram. This doesn’t mean the mammogram should not be performed, but it may be wise to inform the technician or radiologist if someone is lactating.
If breastfeeding, it’s reasonable to try to empty breasts right before the mammogram test. This could mean pumping, hand expressing, or directly feeding. According to the ACR, emptying the breasts beforehand may help improve accuracy of the test.
Is it safe to breastfeed a baby after a mammogram?
If someone is breastfeeding and does get their mammogram, their milk is not harmed. The radiation from the mammogram (or other x-ray) does not make the person or the milk radioactive.
It is still safe to feed a baby immediately after the procedure.
There is no need to “pump and dump” or avoid breastfeeding after a mammogram.
A printable resource covering lactation and mammograms
Below is a printable PDF with this information referencing the ACR guidelines. It’s for breastfeeding women to advocate for themselves if there are questions when they try to get their mammogram. They can keep it in their purse or pocket and refer to it if needed during or after the procedure.
This is not medical advice. Each person and their physician can come up with the best approach and plan for each specific situation.
Feel free to share if someone does not have the updated information. This PDF covers the most basic information, and it includes the ACR reference if more details are needed.
Of course, each radiology and imaging center may have their own policies. The information here is simply a reflection of current guidelines.
Maya M. Mahmood, D.O., FAAP is a board-certified pediatrician and mom. She is passionate about parents having evidence-based information to help their families be healthier.
This is for information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.