When we think of breast cancer the symptom that always springs to mind is a lump. It’s what we feel for when we check our breasts, and what triggers us to see our GP. It isn't the only sign that triggers us to see our GP, though - it's important to know all of the common breast cancer symptoms.
While lumps are important messengers that something could be wrong there are seven other breast cancer symptoms that we should all look out for.
1. A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit – you might feel the lump but not see it
2. A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
3. A change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
4. A change to the nipple, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)
5. Rash or crusting around the nipple
6. Any unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
7. Changes in size or shape of the breast
On its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer. But look out for pain that’s there all or most of the time.
Rachel Rawson, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity, said:
“Many women may know that a lump can be a possible symptom of breast cancer, but it’s so important to know that there are other signs of the disease to be aware of too. This could be nipple discharge or dimpling or puckering of the skin of the breast.
‘”Nobody knows your body better than you, so check your breasts regularly. Getting to know how your breasts normally look and feel will make it easier to spot if there are any unusual changes.
“There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts, it’s as simple as TLC; Touch, Look, Check. It could be when you get dressed, or when you’re bathing, showering or putting on moisturiser. Remember to check the whole breast and the surrounding area, including the upper chest and armpits, and report any unusual changes to your GP.
“While most breast changes won’t be cancer, it’s important to contact your GP surgery as soon as possible, even during the coronavirus outbreak, if you find anything different or new. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment may be. Anyone concerned about a potential symptom of breast cancer can also call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 and speak to one of our expert nurses.”
How to check your breasts
- Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes. There's no special technique and you don’t need training to check your breasts.
- Check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits.
- Do this regularly to check for changes.
- It’s as simple as TLC: Touch Look Check
Touch your breasts: can you feel anything unusual?
Look for changes: does anything look different?
Check any changes with your GP
Remember it’s a change that you’re looking for – most changes won’t be breast cancer, but it’s important to get them checked out. So if you notice something unusual, see your GP straight away.
Breast Cancer Now is at www.breastcancercare.org.uk
Cancer Research UK is at www.cancerresearchuk.org