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All women should be aware of how their breasts normally feel and look so that they can detect any changes, even if they are having regular breast screening.
Breast awareness is part of general body awareness. It is a process of getting to know your own breasts and becoming familiar with their appearance. Learning how your breasts look and feel at different times will help you to know what is normal for you.
You can become familiar with your breast tissue by looking and feeling your breasts – you can do this in any way that is best for you: for example, in the bath or shower with a soapy hand, or when you are getting dressed.
If you are not sure what to look for, or if examining your breasts makes you anxious, you can ask your practice nurse or GP to show you. You can also go to a well-woman clinic to learn how to check your breasts. Your GP or practice nurse can give you details of your nearest clinic.
There is no such thing as a 'standard' breast. What is normal for one woman may not be for another. Throughout your life your breasts will change; below are some descriptions of a normal breast at different stages of your life:
If you are aware of any change in your breast from what is normal for you, tell your doctor as soon as possible. If a cancer is present, the sooner it is reported, the simpler and more effective the treatment is likely to be. Remember, you’re not wasting anyone’s time.
There are many reasons why your breasts may change. Most of them are harmless but all of them need to be checked by a doctor, as there is a small chance that they could be the first sign of cancer.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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