Billions of tiny cells make up our bodies. Normally, these cells grow and develop in a systematic way where new cells are only made when and where they are needed. In cancer, this process goes wrong and cells begin to grow uncontrollably.
Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but usually shows as a lump or thickening in the breast tissue (although most breast lumps are not cancerous). If cancer is detected at an early stage, it can be treated before it spreads to nearby parts of the body.
The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it. So looking out for any changes to your breasts and getting these checked by your GP is very important.
Make sure you’re breast aware and check your breasts regularly. If you know how your breasts usually look and feel, it will be easier to spot any unusual changes. Breasts can change at different times of the month, so it’s important to work out what’s normal for you.
What to look out for
Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but for many women it will appear as a lump or thickening in the breast tissue. This may be in the breast itself, upper chest or armpit.
You might find it easier to check yourself for lumps in the shower or bath and this will help ensure it’s something you do on a regular basis.
Look at your breasts in the mirror, first with your arms by your side, then with these raised. Check whether you can see any of the following:
- a change in size or shape of your breast
- a change in the skin texture such as puckering or dimpling
- a change in the nipple, for example if this has become pulled in
- blood stained discharge from the nipple
- a redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
If you notice a change in your breasts
If you find or feel a lump or notice any other change to your breasts, it’s important to get checked by your GP as soon as possible. Book an emergency appointment with your doctor, who may refer you to a breast clinic where you will be seen within two weeks.
Many symptoms of breast cancer, including breast lumps, are non cancerous and caused by normal breast changes. But it remains vital that you pay attention to your body and seek help if you notice anything that isn’t normal for you.