Common breast cancer signs and symptoms include:
- a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit – you might feel the lump but not see it
- a change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
- a change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
- a change to the nipple, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)
- rash or crusting around the nipple
- any unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
- changes in size or shape of the breast
How to check your breasts
Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes. There’s no special technique and you don’t need training to check your breasts.
Regularly check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits for changes.
It’s as simple as TLC: Touch Look Check
- Touch your breasts: can you feel anything unusual?
- Look for changes: does anything look different?
- Check any changes with your GP
Why do my breasts hurt?
Breast pain is very common in women of all ages. Having painful, sore or tender breasts can cause a lot of anxiety. But on its own, breast pain isn't usually a sign of breast cancer. Many women experience breast pain as part of their normal menstrual cycle (periods). This is called cyclical breast pain. Lasting pain in the breast that’s not related to periods is known as non-cyclical breast pain. Sometimes pain that feels as though it's in the breast is coming from somewhere else, such as a pulled muscle in the chest. This is known as chest wall pain.
Breast pain linked to periods (cyclical breast pain)
Many women feel discomfort and lumpiness in both breasts a week or so before their period. The pain can vary from mild to severe and the breasts can also be tender and sore to touch. You may experience heaviness, tenderness, a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness. The pain usually affects both breasts but it can affect just one breast. It can also spread to the armpit, down the arm and to the shoulder blade.
Cyclical breast pain is linked to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. The pain often goes away once a period starts. In some women, this type of pain will go away by itself, but it can come back.
This type of pain usually stops after the menopause, though women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also have breast pain. Breast pain can also be associated with starting to take or changing contraception that contains hormones.
Managing cyclical breast pain
Exercise, reducing stress and avoiding alcohol are all good strategies to manage cyclical breast pain. Starflower oil, vitamin D supplements and sparing use of topical antiflammatory gels can also provide relief.
Breast pain not linked to periods (non-cyclical breast pain)
It’s often unclear what causes non-cyclical breast pain, but it can be related to:
- a benign (not cancer) breast condition
- previous surgery to the breast
- injury to the breast
- having larger breasts
- a side effect from a drug treatment, such as certain antidepressant drugs and some herbal remedies such as ginseng
- stress and anxiety can also be linked to breast pain.
If you have any concerns at all, please book an appointment with Dr Shilpa.