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2021 ALCI Conference REVIEWED BY Beena Thomas

I am a Neonatal Nurse, working in a busy NICU of a tertiary referral hospital. In my daily work, I come across many breast-feeding mothers having complex and challenging issues with breast feeding.

I am delighted, to have attended the ALCI conference 2021. All the presentations were very impressive and informative. Among them I was particularly interested in the presentation done by Margaret Hynes regarding ‘Breast feeding following mastectomy-case study’. I would therefore like to review it. In my clinical experience I have limited exposure to cancer patients. Therefore, this presentation allowed me to gain a deeper insight.


I learned the fascinating fact that following breast cancer women can breast feed. It is not only a new knowledge to me, but also it gives me an insight into the challenging cases of breast feeding. Margaret’s objective was to increase awareness among health care professionals, that breast feeding is possible for these women. Breast feeding is possible for the woman following breast cancer. What an amazing information! Furthermore, the knowledge of cancer treatment during pregnancy varies in different stages.


I acknowledge this presentation truly gives me confidence to support a mother who is going through a similar situation. Moreover, it gives a lot of hope to the mother as well as the health care staff to prepare a care plan for the breast feeding in advance.


The topic ‘breast cancer treatment outside pregnancy’ is informative and complex. Total mastectomy and the effect of surgery removes the parenchyma and damages the nerves essential for milk ejection. In my neonatal nursing experience, I happened to experience a lot of pressure to support a mother who is going through serious health issues. The information and knowledge empower me and prepares me to be an active member in the multidisciplinary team in the future.


I happened to involve in conversation with mothers who have the family history of cancer and who are reluctant to continue breast feeding after discharge from hospital. The valuable information like breast feeding could prevent pre-menopausal cancer and ovarian cancer and breast feeding is associated with reduced mortality rate in cancer patients. This piece of information is phenomenal and is useful in my clinical field to encourage mothers to breast feed and to continue even after getting discharge from the hospital.


As a health care worker is concerned, a woman’s journey to pregnancy during cancer treatment is certainly dreadful. A higher level of motivation and awareness is needed to support the woman during her journey.


The lived experience for women’s breast-feeding following breast cancer. Jillian’s remarkable story inspires and gives me paramount of strength to support a mother with a similar background in the future. Interestingly, live experience of those 6 women is an eye opener. Highlighting the lack of counselling and encouragement to breast feeding, cracked nipple, sore painful feeding, and concerned about the volume transferred. I could anticipate similar problems and be mindful of the above-mentioned issues and necessary action plans could be implemented in the future.


Lastly, I learned from Margaret about the support systems such as family professional support, private IBCLC, social media and cancer care support. Furthermore, regular breast check breast cancer breast feeding education counselling from multidisciplinary team breast feeding education prior to birth including colostrum harvesting. Referral to breast cancer clinic for unresolved lumps and lactating breast are also recommended.


In conclusion, I strongly believe the presentation was a complete success in getting the insight of breast feeding being possible for a woman following cancer. I express my gratitude to all those who worked hard behind this program to make it a success. A special thanks to Margaret for sharing her knowledge and experience which are bound to changes lives.


Beena Thomas October 2021. 

Beena received a bursary of €100 from ALCI to attend the 2021 ALCI Conference.

Further Reading


Presenting at the ILCA 2023 In-person Conference in Las Vegas:  A Personal Account


ILCA 2023 Conference Presentation: Building Policy Coalitions


WHO/Unicef Congress