Checking your breasts

Whatever your age, size or shape, it’s important to be breast aware and check your breasts regularly.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, so it’s important to look after your breasts by checking them regularly. Getting to know how your breasts look and feel will help you know what is normal for you. You will then be more confident about noticing any unusual changes that might be a symptom of breast cancer and reporting them to your GP (local doctor). 

Learn about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

How do I check my breasts?

Everyone’s breasts look and feel different. Some people have lumpy breasts, or one breast larger than the other, or breasts that are different shapes. When you check your breasts, try to be aware of any changes that are different for you.

Look at and feel your breasts so you know what’s normal for you

Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly – for instance, when you are in the bath or shower, using body lotion or getting dressed. You don’t need to feel your breasts in any special way.

Remember to check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone.

How do I check my breasts

Do this regularly to check for changes

If you check them as part of your usual routine you won’t need to worry that you aren’t doing it often enough. Decide what you are comfortable with and what suits you best.

Remember to check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone.

Tell your doctor as soon as possible if you notice a change

If you notice a change in your breasts, go and see your GP as soon as you can. Most breast changes are normal breast changes or due to a benign (not cancer) breast condition, but it’s important to find out what’s causing the change.

Find out more about what to do if you find a change.

 

Listen to a discussion with one of our nurses about normal breast changes and how to check your breasts.

What are normal breast changes?

Your breasts change constantly throughout your life from puberty, through adolescence, the reproductive years and then the menopause (when periods stop permanently).

Changes around the time of your period

Your breasts may feel heavier and fuller before your period. They may also be tender or lumpy. After a period, this usually lessens or disappears altogether, although some women have tender, lumpy breasts all the time.

Many women also have breast pain around the time of their period (cyclical breast pain), which is normal.

During pregnancy

Your breasts go through a lot of changes during and after pregnancy. Many pregnant women feel a change in sensation in their breasts such as tingling and soreness (particularly of the nipples). The breast and the areola begin to get bigger. The nipple and areola become darker and remain that way during pregnancy.

Before, during and after the menopause

As oestrogen levels fall during and after the menopause, the breasts may change size, lose their firmness, feel softer and may droop. Changes, such as a lump or tenderness, are also common at this time. Lumps often turn out to be breast cysts (fluid-filled sacs). Tenderness may be non-cyclical breast pain  (pain that is not linked to the menstrual cycle), which may need to be treated with pain relief.

It’s important to see your GP (local doctor) about any changes that are new for you, even though for most women these will be benign (not cancer).

If you have a breast cancer or breast health query contact our Helpline on 0808 800 6000 or Ask Our Nurses.  

Last reviewed: December 2016
Next planned review begins 2018

Let us know what you think

Please note that we cannot respond to comments. If you have any questions about breast cancer please contact the Helpline on 0808 800 6000.

Sign up for our newsletter

Related Publication