Being breast aware

All women need to be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel so they can notice any changes. You could try checking your breasts in the bath or shower using a soapy hand, or when you are getting dressed.

If you are not sure about what you should do, ask your practice nurse or GP for advice.

Changes to look for

Your breasts will change as you get older and at different stages of your life.

  • Before the menopause, breasts can feel different at various times of the month.
  • Before you start a period, they may feel tender and lumpy, especially near the armpits.
  • After the menopause, breasts normally feel soft, less firm and not lumpy.

Knowing what is normal for you will help you notice any changes in your breasts.

Changes to look for are:

  • a lump in the breast
  • a change in the size or shape of the breast
  • a change in the skin, such as dimpling (looks like orange peel)
  • the skin of your breast feeling thicker
  • a nipple that is turned in (inverted)
  • a rash (like eczema) on the nipple or breast
  • leaking (discharge) from the nipple
  • swelling or a lump in the armpit
  • discomfort or pain in the breast that does not go away.

A lump in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. However, most breast lumps are not cancer. They are usually fluid-filled lumps (cysts) or a lump made up of body tissue (fibroadenoma).

It is important to get any of these symptoms checked by your GP straight away.

Back to Breast screening

The breasts

Breasts are made of fat, supportive (connective tissue) and glandular tissue that contains lobes (milk glands).