How to Prepare for a Mammogram While Breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding (lactating), you can safely have a mammogram. Also, breastfeeding or pumping as much as possible before your mammogram can make the experience more comfortable. 

Before a mammogram, talk with your healthcare provider and request a technician and radiologist experienced in giving and reading mammograms in people who breastfeed. Mammogram results in someone who is breastfeeding are more complex to interpret.

This article discusses breastfeeding and mammograms, including how results differ when breastfeeding than when not and how to prepare for a mammogram when breastfeeding.

Woman getting a mammogram

andresr / Getty Images

Does Breastfeeding Affect Screening Outcome?

Breastfeeding can affect your mammogram results. Sometimes the normal changes in breastfeeding breasts can appear as lumps, which can be a sign of breast cancer. These changes are usually benign but should still be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

The hormones estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin are responsible for the changes in the breast during breastfeeding, which causes dense tissue to grow. The amount of dense tissue depends on how often you breastfeed or pump, the baby’s age, and nutritional needs.

The dense tissue in the breast can make mammogram results harder to read. However, mammograms are still one of the most effective ways to detect breast cancer early in breastfeeding individuals. 

Other Imaging Options

All breast imaging studies and biopsies (removing a sample tissue for analysis in a lab) are safe for lactating people. If you discover a lump while breastfeeding, your healthcare provider may recommend a breast ultrasound first. Other imaging tests may include:

Before You Go: How Much and How Long to Pump 

A mammogram produces images of the breasts by compressing them between two X-ray plates. The test will likely feel uncomfortable or even painful if your breasts are full of milk.

Before your mammogram, try to empty your breasts as completely as possible. Ask your healthcare facility if it is possible to have a private room to pump immediately before your mammogram. The mammogram procedure takes about 20 minutes.

There is no need to pump milk and discard it, commonly referred to as "pump and dump." X-rays do not affect breast milk, so it is safe to breastfeed after a mammogram.

It is also safe to breastfeed after a breast MRI or biopsy. A minimal amount of the dye (gadolinium) injected during an MRI makes its way to the breast milk but does not affect a baby's gut. 

When breastfeeding and caring for an infant, leaving the house is challenging. It is often easier to put off screenings and tests until life is less chaotic. If you can, keep your medical appointments and get a mammogram when recommended. Reach out to your family, friends, and healthcare providers for support.

Checking for Lumps While Breastfeeding 

To perform a breast self-exam, start by examining your breasts in front of a mirror and look for any areas of swelling or redness. Next, lie down and feel your breasts using your first few fingers. Keep your fingers together and use a circular motion to feel your breasts for lumps. 

Possible exam findings associated with breastfeeding include:

  • Accessory breast tissue: About 2% to 6% of lactating people develop accessory breast tissue. If this extra tissue does not resolve for several weeks, imaging tests are recommended.
  • Plugged milk ducts: Clogged milk ducts create small, hard nodules, which may appear red and swollen. This usually resolves with increasing the frequency of feedings and gentle massage.
  • Galactocele: A milk retention cyst is the most common benign breast mass found in lactating people. It carries a risk of infection and may require drainage.
  • Phlegmon: This fluid collection is caused by obstruction and inflammation. It may become infected and needs imaging.
  • Abscess: A well-defined fluid collection that results from unresolved mastitis (infection). Treatment is needed and may include antibiotics, aspiration, and catheter drainage.
  • Lactating adenoma: A painless, benign lump caused by hormonal stimulation in breastfeeding people. The lump can be large, and a breast biopsy may be recommended.

Any lump that lasts for longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Anytime you notice a lump or change in your breast, talk with your healthcare provider. Don’t feel you need to put it off because of breastfeeding. 


Breastfeeding people can safely have a mammogram. People who breastfeed have more dense breast tissue than non-breastfeeding people, making it difficult to read their mammogram results. It is important to have an experienced radiologist who knows how breastfeeding affects mammogram results. To prepare, attempt to empty your breasts (by breastfeeding or pumping) as much as possible before the exam. After your mammogram, it is safe to resume breastfeeding right away.

A Word From Verywell 

When caring for an infant, finding a moment for yourself can feel impossible. This is especially true when it comes to leaving the house for appointments. While it may feel overwhelming to schedule and attend a mammogram when life is so busy, do your best to make it happen. If your healthcare provider has recommended a mammogram, talk to them about any scheduling challenges and the resources available.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why does breastfeeding increase breast density?

    Breast tissue becomes denser during breastfeeding because of hormonal changes. The hormones estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin cause dense breast tissue.

  • Does breastfeeding lower cancer risk?

    Yes, breastfeeding is thought to slightly lower your risk of breast cancer. Mammograms and other screening tools are still required.

  • How long after delivery can you have a mammogram?

    Talk with your healthcare provider about how soon you can have a mammogram after delivery. Mammograms require that the breasts be compressed to obtain clear images. This is often uncomfortable for breastfeeding people, so it is important to ensure that your body is ready.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. UMass Amherst Breastmilk Research Lab. Can I get a mammogram or a biopsy while breastfeeding?.

  2. MD Anderson Cancer Center. Can I skip a mammogram?.

  3. Vashi R, Hooley R, Butler R, Geisel J, Philpotts L. Breast imaging of the pregnant and lactating patient: Physiologic changes and common benign entities. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2013;200(2). doi:10.2214/ajr.12.9845

  4. La Leche League. Lumps and mammograms.

  5. Mitchell KB, Johnson HM, Eglash A, et al. ABM clinical protocol #30: Breast masses, breast complaints, and diagnostic breast imaging in the lactating woman. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2019;14(4):208-214. doi:10.1089/bfm.2019.29124.kjm

  6. American Cancer Society. How to prepare for a mammogram.

  7. Breast self-exam (BSE).

Additional Reading

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.