Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the world1. It affects one in every eight women. If identified early, treatment for breast cancer can be highly effective.
This is why it is good to be breast aware and to have any changes examined by a GP.
Before you can spot anything out of the ordinary, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for. There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts. You don’t need to check your breasts regularly at a set time or a specific way. Just knowing what’s normal for you, is the most important point.
There are many reasons for lumps to develop in the breast, most of which are not cancer.
When it comes to being breast aware, there are a few things you need to look out for, any changes should always be examined by a GP. Seeking medical attention at the first sign of a potential symptom will enable for a more successful treatment.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should book an appointment with a GP.
Everyone's breasts are different in terms of size, shape and consistency. It's also normal for one breast to be larger than the other.
Get used to how your breasts feel at different times of the month, the menstrual cycle can cause changes. For example, some women have tender and lumpy breasts, or armpits around the time of their period.
Post-menopause, normal breasts feel softer, less firm and not as lumpy.
To be breast aware:
Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, and up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.
You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side, then with them raised up over your head. Look for any changes to the shape, and to the skin.
Don't panic. Breast changes can happen for many reasons, and most of them are not serious (as many as 90% of breast lumps are not cancerous).
However, if you find any change in your breast that is not normal for you, book an appointment with your GP. Your GP may request to examine your breasts and offer to refer you for further tests.
If you’re concerned about a lump, other breast symptoms or need more advice on being breast aware, our GPs can help. Speak to them for expert advice, specialist referrals if required and prescriptions sent straight to your door.
Sources - Breast Cancer Factsheet, 26 March 2021, World Health Organisation, Breast cancer (who.int)
Last reviewed - September 2022