There's no right or wrong way to check your breasts. But it's important to know how your breasts usually look and feel. That way, you can spot any changes quickly and report them to a GP.
Every woman's breasts are different in terms of size, shape and consistency. It's also possible for one breast to be larger than the other.
Get used to how your breasts feel at different times of the month. This can change during your menstrual cycle. For example, some women have tender and lumpy breasts, especially near the armpit, around the time of their period.
After the menopause, normal breasts feel softer, less firm and not as lumpy.
The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a 5-point plan for being breast aware:
- know what's normal for you
- look at your breasts and feel them
- know what changes to look for
- report any changes to a GP without delay
- attend routine screening if you're aged 50 to 70
Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, and up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.
You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.
See a GP if you notice any of the following changes:
- a 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)
Breast changes can happen for many reasons, and most of them are not serious. Lots of women have breast lumps, and most breast lumps are not cancerous.
However, if you find changes in your breast that are not normal for you, it's best to see a GP as soon as possible. This is because it's important to rule out breast cancer. If cancer is detected, then appropriate treatment should be planned as quickly as possible.
Find out more information about cancer.