Lactation consultants may not be able to predict breast cancer in a patient but their ability to prescribe antibiotics is improving, according to a new study.
It is the first time the field has looked at a large, population-based cohort of doctors in Australia and New Zealand.
“It is really an interesting study because it shows that lactation consultants can be able do a lot better than other doctors,” said Dr Paul Henshaw, a breast cancer specialist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
Dr Hensaw said the study looked at about 1,000 doctors who had been treated for breast cancer between 2002 and 2011, and also used data from other studies to examine the effectiveness of lactation consultant treatment.
He said lactation consultations had been linked to fewer deaths than general practice but could also be used as an early detection test for the disease.
“When I first started in the field, I would have never believed that lactations would be such a good test for this,” he said.
The study found that lactational consultants had a “good signal to noise ratio” for detecting breast cancer.
In addition, it was possible to compare the use of lactations and general practice by doctors.
“That’s what makes it such a great tool,” Dr Hinshaw said.
“Because they’re looking at the data, it allows you to see whether the lactation consultation is really effective.”
The findings, which are published in the British Medical Journal, suggest lactation appointments may not necessarily have a clear benefit.
They also highlight the need for better screening for the condition.
Dr James Watson, from the University College London, said the data showed the need to look at more data to make a judgement call about whether a lactation appointment was more effective.
“I think the study does provide a bit of good data that suggests a lactational consultation is a good alternative to general practice,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
Dr Watson said the findings of the study should be considered when planning lactation clinics.
“The fact that the lactations are seen as a preventive measure is something that is going to need to be studied further,” he added.
“We need to know more about what they’re doing with that information.”
The Australian Cancer Council said lactations were seen as an “important alternative” to general practices for women with breast cancer, because of the fact that it can be done without invasive treatments.
“If you think about breast cancer and the disease it causes, it’s the most aggressive form of cancer,” Dr Watson told ABC Radio.
Lactation is a really good alternative because it’s a much simpler process than surgery.”