Think about breast cancer, and you’re likely to think of a woman finding a lump in their breast. But in reality, there are many different signs and symptoms to look out for.
Of course, looking out for lumps is important – but breast awareness is all about knowing what’s normal for you so you can notice any changes to your breasts, whatever they may be.
Most women find their breast cancer symptom themselves, so it’s crucial to check your breasts regularly.
Knowing what warning signs to look for can lead to earlier detection of breast cancer. This can be crucial in providing more effective treatment and, ultimately, saving lives.
Many of the women volunteering on Breast Cancer Care Scotland’s first-ever Breast Awareness Roadshow have had a breast cancer diagnosis.
Some found more unusual symptoms. Valerie, for example, noticed one of her breasts increasing in size, but didn’t think anything of it until she found a breast lump a few months later.
If it’s something that’s only just happened, then it’s best to get it checked out.Davinia Green
A change in size or shape of the breast is one symptom to be aware of. Remember, it’s the change that’s important – many women have one breast slightly larger than the other, and if that’s normal for you then that’s fine! But if it’s something that’s only just happened, then it’s best to get it checked out.
There are several other symptoms you might not have heard of. Did you know that a nipple becoming inverted could be a sign of breast cancer, for instance? Or that nipple discharge could be something to look out for?
Other symptoms include:
Redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
Swelling in the armpit or collarbone
Lump or thickening that differs from the rest of the breast tissue
Change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling of the skin
Constant pain in the breast or armpit
There are many reasons why people might not check their breasts. Some people tell us it’s because they’re not really sure how. The truth is, there’s no ‘correct’ way – it’s all about working out what you’re comfortable with. Try working it into your normal routine – perhaps while you’re in the shower, putting on body lotion or getting dressed. Make sure to check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone.
It’s important to remember that most breast changes are likely to be normal – changes linked to your menstrual cycle, for example, or non-cancer (benign) breast conditions such as cysts. But if you do notice something unusual, get it checked out with your GP.
If you want to find out more about being breast aware, visit our Roadshow, which is touring Scotland until the end of October – go to www.breastcancercare.org.uk/roadshow-scotland to find out where we’ll be or check out our breast awareness app.
Davinia Green – Head of Breast Awareness and Early Detection at Breast Cancer Care