Signs and symptoms of breast cancer

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer can include:

  • a change in size or shape of the breast
  • a lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue
  • redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
  • a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like orange peel)
  • discharge (liquid) that comes from the nipple without squeezing
  • your nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing its position or shape
  • a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
  • constant pain in your breast or your armpit

If you have any questions or concerns about breast health you can call our free Support Line on 0808 800 6000.

How do I check my breasts?

There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts for any changes. Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly. You can do this in the bath or shower, when you use body lotion, or when you get dressed. There’s really no need to change your everyday routine. Just 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.

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. Some have one or both nipples pulled in (inverted), which can be there from birth or happen when the breasts are developing.

When you check your breasts, try to be aware of any changes that are different for you. 

signs and symptoms of breast cancer diagram

See and share our signs and symptoms of breast cancer infographic »

Listen to a discussion with one of our nurses about breast signs and symptoms and what happens at a breast clinic.

What should I do if I find a change?

Most breast changes are likely to be normal or due to a benign (not cancer) breast condition rather than being a sign of breast cancer. If you notice a change, go and see your GP (local doctor) as soon as you can.

If you don’t feel comfortable going to see a male GP you can ask if there is a female doctor available. When your GP examines your breasts they may feel that there is no need for further investigation, or they may refer you to a breast clinic.

For more information about what happens at a breast clinic and the tests you may have, read what happens when you are referred to a breast clinic or download our Your breast clinic appointment booklet.

Some people think that if they have breast cancer they will have other symptoms alongside a breast change, such as feeling tired, having less energy or weight loss, but this is not the case. If you do notice a change it’s important to visit your GP.

Last reviewed: March 2014
Next planned review begins 2016

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