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Spotting cancer early saves lives

Breast cancer

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. It develops when abnormal cells in the breast tissue begin to grow out of control, usually forming a tumour which can be felt as a lump in the breast or armpit.

Breast cancer occurs most commonly in women (1 in 8 women in the UK), but men can also get it. There are over 55,000 cases of breast cancer a year, which is around 150 new cases diagnosed each day.

It is not yet fully understood how breast cancer is caused and it is hard to tell why some women develop the condition and others don’t, however it can be influenced by age, lifestyle and family history.

Symptoms to look out for

It is important to check your breasts regularly and be aware of the symptoms associated with breast cancer. Most breast cancers are first discovered through self-checking and the earlier any symptoms are discovered the better chance of survival, so it is vital to get to know how your breasts feel and what is normal for you. The most well-known and common symptom associated with breast cancer is the development of a lump in the breast tissue. However, there are other symptoms and indicators of breast cancer which you should be aware of when checking your breasts regularly.

What to check for:

  • Lump or thickening of the tissue in your breast or armpit
  • Changes in the shape or size of a breast
  • Changes in the skin texture such as puckering or dimpling
  • Breast or armpit pain
  • Discharge from your nipples
  • Changes in the position of your nipples, or nipple inversion
  • Swelling in your armpit or collar bone
  • A rash on or around your nipple

For more information on self-examination visit:

NHS Choices

When to see your GP

It is important to go and get checked out by your GP if you experience any of the above symptoms or you are worried about your breasts. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions but it is always best to seek medical advice.

More information

NHS Choices
Cancer Research UK
Worldwide Breast Cancer – Know your lemons 

Breast cancer screening

Breast cancer screening

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Your questions answered