Stoke & Staffordshire

Staffordshire mother says breastfed son ‘spotted cancer’

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Media caption"He stopped feeding at six months old": Sarah Boyle tells 5 live her story

A mother says her baby son "saved her life" by helping her detect breast cancer when he refused to feed.

Sarah Boyle, 26, said at about six months old, Teddy suddenly "became very distressed" when she tried to feed from her right breast.

The Staffordshire mum said his continued behaviour convinced her to insist that a cyst which was found to be benign be re-scanned.

Mrs Boyle is being treated for grade two triple negative breast cancer.

There have been anecdotal reports that babies can pick up breast changes, but this has not been accepted as a breast cancer sign by the medical profession.

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Mrs Boyle said her son, who is nearly one, had taken "fantastically well" to breastfeeding but his behaviour changed last summer.

Image copyright Sarah Boyle
Image caption Sarah Boyle praised "fantastic" medical staff

She tried feeding Teddy in various positions over several weeks and wondered if there was something wrong with his neck, but now believes milk from her right breast tasted different.

"He became very unhappy and even hit out. For an eight-month baby to push his mother away was really heartbreaking," she said.

Image copyright Sarah Boyle
Image caption Sarah Boyle was diagnosed with cancer months after this picture was taken

Mrs Boyle was diagnosed with a benign cyst in her right breast in 2013 and said when she asked to be re-scanned was told not to worry.

However, as Teddy's behaviour persisted, she also noticed the cyst had become "more rigid" and painful and her breast had changed shape.

She went back to see a doctor and a scan and biopsy later confirmed cancer.

"I remember it was 11:55am on 16th November," she said.

Image copyright Sarah Boyle
Image caption Mrs Boyle said Teddy showed her "something was wrong"

Mrs Boyle is halfway through chemotherapy at Royal Stoke University Hospital, whose staff were "fantastic", she said.

The mother, who is to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction said Teddy, her husband and rest of her family were getting her through the rough times.

"Nobody can say for certain whether it was Teddy, but I know that if it wasn't for him then this time next year it could've been completely different if I'd listened to doctors, but instead I listened to Teddy.

"[It's] Because of him that I'm now being treated."

Catherine Priestley, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said they had heard from a "small number of women" who had found their baby stopped feeding from their breast before their diagnosis.

"While there are many reasons why a baby may stop feeding, getting any new breast changes checked out must be top of the list," she said.

"We found a tenth of younger women diagnosed with breast cancer are pregnant or breastfeeding when they first notice their breast symptom."

Dr Jasmine Just, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said there was "no good evidence that difficulties breastfeeding are likely to be caused by breast cancer or that the disease changes breast milk so that a baby might not want to feed".

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