Breast Cancer: How to Spot the Symptoms and Check Yourself

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so here's some useful information that might even save your life.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so here's some useful information that might even save your life.

Be honest, do you check your breasts regularly? It’s a really important health check to do but one that many people forget about. With Cancer Research statistics showing that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, we’re looking at the symptoms and how to check your breasts properly.

Signs and symptoms

While there are a number of symptoms that could be a sign of cancer, it’s important to know that most breast lumps or changes are caused by something far less serious, like cysts, mastitis or hormonal changes. However, if you notice any of the following, it’s important to see your doctor and get things properly checked out.

  • A lump or swelling on the breast itself, under the armpit or between the breast and collarbone
  • A change in general breast shape or size
  • Pain in your armpit or breast
  • A change in the skin, like a rash, dimpling or puckering
  • Any blood or fluid leaking from the nipple
  • A change in nipple shape or an inverted nipple

Essentially, you’re looking for anything that’s out of the ordinary. If you see something that’s not quite right, don’t just hope it will go away. See your doctor and get it sorted.

Many people leave symptoms because they’re embarrassed about having breast problems, but it’s not something to worry about. The doctors and nurses you’ll see have seen it all a million times and are used to dealing with the issue sensitively. You can always ask for a female practitioner if that makes you feel more comfortable too. Even though it’s more than likely nothing to worry about, it’s not worth letting embarrassment affect your health.

It’s also important to know that keeping an eye out for any changes doesn’t just apply to women. While male breast cancer is very rare, it is possible as men also have some breast tissue, so it’s equally important for a man to see a doctor if they spot anything unusual.

How to check your breasts

So, you know what to look out for, but how do you check yourself properly? Well, the best way to be able to spot something unusual in your breast tissue is to get to know what’s normal. Regular checks will help you get to know what’s usual for your body.

There’s no magic formula for checking your breasts but it’s a good idea to do it while you’re in the shower or applying body cream as that makes it easier to move your fingers over the skin. Using the flat of your hand, you just press into your breast tissue, covering an area that goes from your collarbone to below your breasts as well as down the sides of your boobs and under your armpits.

If you want a visual guide, CoppaFeel have a great video that shows you what to do.

The right support

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK but statistics show that survival rates have doubled over the last 40 years, with early diagnosis and improved treatments making a huge difference. That’s why it’s so important to keep on top of your breast health with regular (at least monthly) checks and to get a second opinion if you spot any changes.

For more information on breast cancer, the Breast Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Care and Cancer Research websites have lots of useful information and advice.

If you need care and support at home, get in touch with our Bluebird Care team to find out about our homecare and respite care services in the Wandsworth and Lambeth area.