The ‘common’ breast cancer symptoms – and correct way you should check for signs


Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Scotland.

Some 4,700 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year in Scotland, accounting for 28.1 per cent of all cancers diagnosed – excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, according to The Scottish Public Health Observatory.

The vast majority of these cases are women, but it is possible for men to be diagnosed, too.

Around 385,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK – that’s one new case every 90 seconds.

According to Cancer Research UK, one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms to look out for as well as how to check your breasts.

Getting to know your breasts, what to look out for and when to seek medical attention can make a huge difference if the abnormality is in fact cancer.

Early diagnosis can save your life – so what are the signs you should look out for?

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

According to the NHS, signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • to change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • discharge from either of your nipples, which may be streaked with blood
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • dimpling on the skin of your breasts
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

How to check your breasts

A mid-adult woman getting a mammogram.  She is being helped by an African-American nurse.
You should make an appointment with your GP if you are concerned.

To complete checks, you should feel each breast and armpit and then all the way to your collarbone.

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It may be easier to do this while showering or in the bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and under your armpits to feel for any abnormalities.

You can also look at your breasts in the mirror by looking at them with your arms by your side and then with your arms raised.

All breasts differ from shape to size.

It is also pretty common for one to be bigger than the other so it is important to get to know your own breasts when checking for anything that does not seem quite right.

According to Breast Cancer UK advice, you should check your breasts at the same time each month, avoiding the time when you have a period.

During your period it is common for some women to have tender and lumpy breasts, especially near the armpit due to hormonal changes.

Breast changes to look out for

According to the NHS, you should contact your GP if you notice any of these changes to your breasts:

  • to change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
  • a change in the look or feel of the skin on your breast, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness
  • a new lump, swelling, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that was not there before
  • a discharge of fluid from either of your nipples
  • any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
  • a rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple
  • any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it’s a new pain and does not go away (although pain is only a symptom of breast cancer in rare cases)
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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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