Being breast aware

Whatever your age, size or shape it is important to take care of your breasts. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, so it is important to look after your breasts by being breast aware.
From your mid-twenties onwards, you should become familiar with how your breasts look and feel at different times. You will then know what is normal for you and will be aware of any changes if they occur.

Breast changes are not usually accompanied by other physical symptoms, so even if you feel well it is still important to visit your GP and get any changes checked out.

Find out more about being breast aware. We have provided more information below.

You can also visit the Breast Cancer Now website for helpful images of some of the symptoms to look out for.

How do I check my breasts?

There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Try to get used to looking and feeling your breasts regularly. Remember to check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone.

The breast awareness 5-point code:

  1. You should know what is normal for you
  2. Know what changes to look for
  3. Look and feel all areas
  4. Tell your GP about any changes straight away
  5. Go for breast screening when invited

The earlier a breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of successful treatment. By checking your breasts regularly for lumps and other changes, you can improve your chances of finding breast cancer at an early, treatable stage.

The signs and symptoms to look out for in a breast cancer may include:

  • a lump in the breast
  • a change in the size or shape of the breast
  • puckering, dimpling of the skin or thickening of the breast tissue (like the skin of an orange)
  • a change to the nipple, for example,  that has ‘turned in’ (inverted), changed position or shape
  • redness or a rash on the skin and / or around the nipple
  • discharge from the nipple
  • pain in your breast or your armpit that is there all or almost all of the time
  • a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone

If you have any of the above symptoms, it is important to have them checked by your GP as early as possible.

Breast lumps

Most breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous). They are usually fluid-filled lumps (cysts) or fibroadenomas, which are made up of fibrous glandular tissue.

If you notice a lump in your breast, please see your GP. Although, most breast lumps are benign, they still need to be checked.

If a lump does turn out to be cancer, the earlier it is treated the more successful treatment is likely to be.

Early prevention of breast cancer

Breast screening

The Breast Cancer Screening Programme invites women by GP practice every three years. A woman may be aged 50, 51 or 52 when she receives her first invite to attend – the first invitation will be before the age of 53 and after this, women will be called by their GP every 3 years, until the age of 70.

Women over 70 are not automatically invited for screening but are encouraged to make their own appointment by contacting the breast screening unit at Antrim Area Hospital on telephone number 028 9442 4425.

In order to be invited women must ensure that their GP has their correct name and current address on their computer system. It is essential that you attend breast screening if you are asked to go as it can detect breast cancer at an early stage before any other signs or symptoms appear.

What to expect when they attend for breast screening

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has produced a video to show women what to expect when they attend for breast screening.

Watch PHA breast screening video

For more detailed information on the Breast Cancer Screening Programme, please visit the NHSCT Breast Screening Services page or the Breast Screening section on the Public Health Agency website.

Action Cancer screening

Action Cancer for Northern Ireland is a charity that provides a ‘Big Bus’ breast screening service for women.

Women aged between 40-49 years and over 70 years can book their own appointment through Action Cancer to receive a mammogram on board.

For more information on the Action Cancer Big Bus screening service; how to book an appointment, and their upcoming locations, please visit the Big Bus screening information section on the Action Cancer website.

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