Breast Cancer Awareness: Early Symptoms and Signs

Breast Cancer Awareness: Early Symptoms and Signs

The warning symptoms and signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. Discover our insight to breast cancer awareness and what symptoms may mean.




The words ‘breast cancer’ strike fear into many of us, and for good reason, as the vast majority of cases occur in women over 50. Here’s what to look out for.

The good news is that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest possible stage have a 90% chance of surviving. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat and the more likely you are to be cured.

Breast cancer awareness
It’s easiest to check your breasts in the shower or bath. Run a soapy hand over each breast and up under your arm, and make sure you get to know what is normal for you.

Breast cancer signs

  • A lump or thickening in an area of the breast.

  • A change in the size, shape or feel of a breast.

  • Puckering of the skin or dimpling.

  • A change in the shape of your nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast, or has an irregular shape.

  • A blood-stained discharge from the nipple.• A rash on a nipple or surrounding area.

  • A swelling or lump in your armpit.

What to do if you notice a change
If you have any of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Nine out of 10 breast lumps turn out not to be cancer, and inverted nipples, blood-stained nipple discharge or a rash can all be due to other medical conditions. However, if you notice one of these symptoms, or anything else that isn’t normal, go straight to your GP.

What about the menopause and HRT?
The breast cancer symptoms to look out for are the same regardless of your age and whether or not you’ve been through the menopause. But it’s important to know that if you take HRT, you may be at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Research has shown an increased risk while you take the hormones and for five years after you stop, and the risk is higher with combined HRT (oestrogen and testosterone) than it is for oestrogen-only HRT. Talk to your doctor and weigh up how severe your menopause symptoms are and what other factors might affect your breast cancer risk before you decide what is right for you.

Detect breast cancer as early as possible
In the UK, the NHS Breast Screening Programme invites all women aged between 50 and 70 for breast cancer screening every three years. In England, the screening programme is currently extending the age range from 47 to 73.

More help and advice
For more information on symptoms, the risks and benefits of screening and HRT, see www.cancerresearchuk.org

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