Breast cancer symptoms you didn't know

Lesley Dobson / 01 October 2015

How many breast cancer symptoms can you name? When women aged 70 and over were asked this question in research 48% of them only knew one symptom – a lump.

While a lump or thickening in an area of your breast is one of the main warning signs for breast cancer, it’s important to know about the other, lesser-known symptoms too.

In fact, about 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer had noticed a symptom that wasn’t a lump.

Public Health England’s campaign ‘Be Clear on Cancer’, aimed at women aged 70 and over, aims to increase awareness of the risk of breast cancer in women in this age group.

Around 13,400 women of 70 and over are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. They account for one third of all breast cancer cases.

Older women are at increased risk of breast cancer, but they are also the age group more likely to put off going to their GP when they spot cancer symptoms.

So one of the main messages in this campaign is ‘don’t assume you’re past it’. If something seems different, see your doctor, quickly.

“You are never too old to get breast cancer,” says Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer. “It is not always a lump and women should look for any changes in the shape of the breast, a change to a nipple or to the skin.

“Spotting the signs of cancer early is very important, so if women are concerned about any breast cancer symptoms they should contact their GP straight away.”

Breast cancer comes top of the list for cancer in women in England. Around 41,200 women are diagnosed with it every year.

Around 9,500 women die because of breast cancer every year – over half are women aged 70 and over.

Early diagnosis of breast cancer is vital – if you’re treated early your treatment is more likely to be successful. If breast cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage in women in the 70 plus age group, 93% of these women will live for at least another five years.

Check yourself regularly, don’t ignore possible symptoms, and if you spot any changes, or possible symptoms see your GP as soon as you can.

Breast cancer symptoms you should watch out for include;

  • A lump or thickened area in your breast
  • Change in the size, feel or shape of your breast
  • Blood stained discharge from your nipple
  • A rash on or around your nipple
  • Changes to the shape of your nipple, such as sinking into your breast, turning inwards, or becoming irregular in shape
  • A dimpling effect in the skin
  • A swelling or lump in your under-arm area
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