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Older mums are being urged to remain vigilant about changes to their breasts during pregnancy and breastfeeding as those aged over 35 are six times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
That's one thing Brisbane mum Kymme Davey found out the hard way, when she was was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, aged just 36 and two weeks out from giving birth to her son Samuel.
"I found a grape-sized lump in one of my breasts while having a shower and I dismissed it as a blocked milk duct," Kymme said.
"I was in total shock when I got the news from my GP that it was breast cancer. I was in denial. I had a toddler, Florence, and a newborn on the way and wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen.
"My preparation to go on maternity leave turned quickly to sick leave."
In Australia, about 7 women per 100,000 are diagnosed with gestational breast cancer each year and recent research revealed older mums were at significantly higher risk than younger women.
Mater surgeon Dr Carissa Phillips, who was Kymme’s doctor, is warning that while pregnancy and breastfeeding creates changes to the body and breasts, women should not dismiss lumps, skin puckering and other changes as a normal part of becoming mothers.
"Kymme had a specific, individualised care plan that involved her baby being born safely before any cancer care treatment began,” Dr Phillips explained.
"Protecting the baby and providing Kymme with the support she needed was essential."
After Samuel was delivered, Kymme immediately began a series of tests and treatments including a lumpectomy, a PET scan, chemotherapy, radiation and a sentinel node biopsy.
With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Kymme is encouraging women not to become complacent or ignore changes to their breasts during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
"My dad died from bowel cancer when he was 49 so I have always made sure I’ve had checks for that – but I had not thought of breast cancer," she said.
"Get checked out, it’s better to be safe than sorry."
Kymme said life had been a whirlwind since Samuel was born, and the hardest part of being diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy was not being able to breastfeed her newborn.
"With a toddler and a newborn, there’s no time to wallow or feel sorry for myself," she said,
"It was always going to be a big job with two kids but add in a cancer diagnosis and it went up a level.
"When I had Florence, breastfeeding came so naturally and easily to me but I now have a whole new perspective on it.
"If I was to give any advice to other women, I’d say keep checking yourself and don’t dismiss anything. It could be the difference between life and death."
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