Health conditions

How can I look out for breast cancer?

This information provided by Cancer Council WA (external site).

A woman’s breasts change throughout life. Being aware of these changes and learning how your breasts feel at different times can help you understand what is normal for you. If you are familiar with your breasts you may be more likely to notice any unusual changes that could be a sign of breast cancer.

Women of all ages should become familiar with their breasts. But it becomes more important as you get older as the risk of breast cancer increases with age.

Everyone’s breasts are different. It is important that you get to know what your breasts look and feel like, so you know what is normal for you. There is no right or wrong way to do this, however the following suggestions can be used as a guide:

  • Look in the mirror and feel your breasts from time to time.
  • Feel them while you are in the shower or bath, lying in bed or getting dressed. It should only take a few minutes.
  • Remember to feel all the breast tissue, from the collarbone to below the bra line and under the arms.
  • Use the flat part of your fingers and the finger pads to feel near the surface and deeper into the breasts.

If you are still having your periods, expect your breasts to feel different at different times of the month. For example, some women get painful, lumpy or swollen breasts just before their period starts and softer breasts after their period has finished.

See your doctor if you notice any unusual changes. If you find any unusual changes, it is important that you see your doctor straight away. Unusual breast changes include:

  • a lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast or under the arm
  • changes in the skin on or around the breast, such as dimpling, puckering or redness
  • changes in the nipple, such as inversion, new nipple discharge, or itchy or ulcerated skin
  • an area of the breast that feels different from the rest
  • new pain that doesn’t go away.

Your doctor will examine your breasts and ask about your medical history. Your doctor may send you for tests to find out what caused the changes.

Most changes are not breast cancer. However, it is always important to have any changes checked out straight away by your doctor.

More information

Where to get help

  • See your doctor.
  • Visit a GP after hours.
  • Ring healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.
  • Phone the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.
  • Phone BreastScreen WA 13 20 50.

Acknowledgements
Cancer Council Western Australia

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.