Anyone can develop breast cancer, not just women, so it’s important you become familiar with the normal look and feel of your own breasts so that you can be alert to any changes that might occur. It is recommended that you check your breasts on a regular basis, even if you’ve had previous treatment for breast cancer.

How to self check your breasts

Getting into a routine of checking and looking at your breast can help you notice any changes. You might want to put a reminder in your diary to help you remember.  

  • Find a position that feels comfortable to you. Some people find checking their breast while in the shower or bath or before they get dressed in the mornings is helpful. 
  • It’s normal to notice some changes in the look and feel of your breast as part of your usual monthly cycle. If you don’t have a regular monthly cycle, try to work out what feels normal to you. 
  • Breast tissue goes up as far as your collar bone and under your arm, so make sure you check the whole area.  
  • Some of the signs of breast cancer can only be seen, not felt, so get used to looking at your breasts as part of your regular check, as well as feeling for changes. 
  • If you find something which looks or feels different to usual, get in touch with your GP who can help decide whether it needs to be checked by a specialist. Even if you are not sure whether it is something to be concerned about, it is always worth getting it checked out; please be assured you are not wasting your doctor’s time. Whilst there are other non-cancerous breast conditions that might be found, the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer can lead to less treatment and much better outcomes.  

Mammograms / routine screening

Mammograms are offered to every woman every three years between the age of 50-70 and you will be invited to attend this routine screening within three years of turning 50.  In some parts of the country the NHS is trialing calling women from the age of 47 until the age of 73. 

It is important to attend these appointments to try and detect breast cancer as early as possible. Mammograms are a type of X-ray test that can spot cancers which are too small to feel or see.

If you are over the age of 70 years you can request a mammogram every three years through your GP. 

Possible breast cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit. You might feel the lump, but not see it 
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast 
  • A change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling of the skin
  • A change in the colour of the breast, such as redness 
  • Rash, crusting or changes to the nipple 
  • Any unusual discharge from either nipple

Noticing an unusual change like these doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer.

However it is important to get checked out if you notice a change in the look or feel of your breasts, especially if you are worried.  

When to see your GP

People often worry about wasting their doctor’s time. Do not be afraid of this. 

If you have any concerns about your breasts then you should get checked out. 

See your GP as soon as possible if you’ve noticed any of the symptoms above. 

Your doctor will examine you. If they think your symptoms need further assessment, they’ll refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic. 

For more information about diagnosis and what happens at a specialist breast cancer clinic please visit the NHS website or find out more from Coppafeel or Breast Cancer Now

While your symptoms may not be cancer, it is important to get them checked by a doctor. Men risk getting breast cancer too, so if you are male and are worried or notice any changes then you should also see your doctor.  

Around 1 in 7 women and 1 in 800 men are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. There’s a good chance of recovery if it is detected at an early stage. 

Should I be worried about breast pain?

Pain in your breasts can be normal, especially around the time of your period, and is not usually a sign of breast cancer unless you have other symptoms too.  However, if you have pain that doesn’t go away, that is getting worse, or that is there all, or almost all, of the time, speak to your Doctor. 

You can read more about breast pain below.

What happens if I do get diagnosed with breast cancer?

You might be diagnosed with breast cancer after visiting a specialist breast cancer clinic. 

Being diagnosed with breast cancer and going through the treatment you need can be a very stressful, anxious and uncertain time. 

Breast Cancer Haven can support you, and also the people close to you, at this time. 

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