Breast cancer can begin in different areas of the breast and there are numerous different types. It can start in the ducts, the lobules and in some cases, the tissues between the two. There are also different types including non-invasive, invasive, recurrent and metastatic as well as intrinsic or molecular subtypes. Men can also get breast cancer.
Most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing changes in their breasts so it is vital to be breast aware. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better chance there is of beating it.
It’s important to remember that many of the symptoms below can be caused by other medical conditions or will be completely normal. However, if you have any of the following, you should go and discuss them with your GP.
This downloadable info graphic is available on the Breast Cancer Care website.
Women should regularly check their breasts. It’s good to get into a habit of doing this approximately once a month to know how they normally look and feel – you could do this in the bath, shower or before getting dressed. One of the first symptoms for many women is finding a lump in their breast, however it’s important to remember that 9 out of 10 breast lumps are benign (not cancerous). During your period, your breasts may become swollen or tender and it is a good idea to do your breast check several days after your period. In general, cancerous lumps often feel hard and immovable and tend to be more irregular in shape.
Changes in your breasts
When checking your breasts, you should also look at them in a mirror. Being familiar with how they look means you will notice whether they have changed in size or shape. Again, do this several days after your period, as during this time, they can feel more lumpy or sore. Check whether there are any changes to the skin such as puckering, dimpling or redness. Is the skin texture the same? Check that your nipples look the same, check for changes in position or signs of them sinking into your breast.
If you have any unusual breast discharge or fluid leaking from your nipple, if you are experiencing breast pain, pain under your armpit or have a rash or crusting of the nipple or the surrounding area you should also see your GP. Further information can be found here and we also think that the #KnowYourLemons campaign is a fantastic visual reference.
If you have symptoms, you will be referred to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests. These will include a mammogram, which is an X-ray of your breasts and/or breast ultrasound. A biopsy (tissue sample) may also be taken from your breast under imaging guidance.