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How should I check my breasts?

There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts.

It’s important to know how your breasts normally look and feel. That way, you can spot any changes quickly and report them to your GP. A lump could be an early sign of breast cancer.

Be breast aware

Every woman's breasts are different. Many women have one breast bigger than the other.

Get used to how your breasts feel at different times of the month. This can change during your menstrual cycle. For example, some women have tender and lumpy breasts around the time of their period.

After the menopause, normal breasts feel soft, less firm and not lumpy.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a five-point plan for being breast aware:

  • know what’s normal for you
  • look at your breasts and feel them
  • know what changes to look for
  • report any changes without delay
  • attend routine screening if you’re 50 or over

Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit. You can look at your breasts in the mirror. Moving your arms around will allow you to see your breasts from every angle.

Breast changes to look out for

See your GP if you notice any of the following changes:

  • a change in the size, outline or shape of your breast, especially when you move your arm or lift your breast
  • a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling
  • any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it’s a new pain and doesn’t go away
  • a new lump, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that is different from the same area on the other side
  • nipple discharge that's not milky
  • bleeding from your nipple
  • a moist, red area on your nipple that doesn’t heal easily
  • any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
  • a rash on or around your nipple

Always see your GP

Breast changes can happen for many reasons, and most of them aren’t serious. Many women have breast lumps, and nine out of 10 are not cancerous.

However, if you find changes in your breast that aren’t normal for you, it’s best to see your GP as soon as possible. This is because the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment.

Read the answers to more questions about cancer.

Further information:


Breast cancer screening

See what happens during a mammogram, and the benefits of mammography and ultrasound explained.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

Page last reviewed: 20/09/2013

Next review due: 19/09/2015