Breast lumps are very common and most women will experience one or more at some time in their lives. The vast majority (at least nine out of ten) are benign i.e. not cancerous.
Early detection of breast cancer is vital as it increases the chance of successful treatment. Women are therefore encouraged to be ‘breast aware’. This means knowing how your breasts look and feel and the normal changes that occur at different times of your menstrual cycle. Visit your doctor if you feel a lump, or if one of your breasts changes shape or becomes constantly painful. There is no need to examine yourself to a strict routine, but it is sensible to look at and feel your breasts from time to time. It would probably be sensible to do this while taking a shower or bathing or when standing in front of a mirror.
What to look for
Even though most lumps are not cancerous, if you find a lump in your breast or notice any of the following changes you should arrange to see your GP as soon as possible.
- Change in size of your breasts (after puberty is complete)
- Dimpling or in-drawing of the skin (skin looks like texture of orange peel)
- Lumpiness or thickening
- Newly inverted nipple
- Bloodstained discharge from nipple
- A rash, often eczema-like, on the nipple or surrounding area
- Swelling or lump in the armpit