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How to check for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime but more than 50% of women say they don't know the early signs of the disease.

Dr Hilary Jones shares his step-by-step guide to checking your breasts. It could save your life in the time it takes to get changed.

> Download the Change And Check sticker here.

> Read more: Male breast cancer: How to check

The signs and symptoms you're looking for are:- Visible changes in shape or size.- Skin changes such as; dimpling, puckering or rash around the nipple.- Lumps or bumps.- Bloody discharge from the nipple.

How to check:

  • Sit comfortably in front of a mirror with hands on your hips so chest muscles are relaxed.

  • Firstly, look at the contour of the breast to check that it matches on each side and see if there is any puckering or dimpling.

  • Look for any change in the nipple such as a rash, indrawing or pulling in.

  • Look for any skin change all around the nipple.

  • Using the fingers of your left hand to examine the right breast, walk your middle three fingers around the breast. You're feeling for any abnormal lumps or bumps or any irregularity that hasn't been there before.

  • Divide the breast into four quarters.

  • Start on the inner upper quarter, walking those fingers around the breast.

  • Do the same on the lower inner quarter and then across to the lower right quarter and then the upper right quarter.

  • Walk fingers up to the tail of the breast in the armpit.

  • Walk your fingers back to the areola around the nipple.

  • Repeat steps above on the left breast, using your right hand to do so.

Dr Hilary advises that menstruating women check their breasts following their period each month. For menopausal and post-menopausal women, pick a date each month that suits you.

If you notice anything unusual, see your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. Early diagnosis could mean a better chance of successful treatment.

For more information about breast cancer, use our helplines below:

Future Dreams


Their mission is to ensure that nobody has to face breast cancer alone. The charity funds breast cancer support centres, research projects and awareness campaigns. Future Dreams works closely with other charities and we share the goal with Breast Cancer Now that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live.


Breast Cancer in women

Breast Cancer in men


Breast reconstruction 



Breast cancer awareness charity aimed at young people to promote early detection through educating about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.  

We exist to educate and remind every 18-30 year old in the UK that checking their boobs isn't only fun, it could save their life.

Breast Cancer Now

Helpline:  0808 800 6000


Offers information and support to women and men who have or fear they may have breast cancer, and their families and friends. A range of publications including booklets and factsheets on all aspects of breast cancer are available free on the website, as well as a free confidential helpline run by specially trained nurses.

Macmillan Cancer Support

Helpline:  0808 808 0000

Breast cancer

Breast cancer in men


Breast reconstruction

Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer. We provide practical, medical and financial support and push for better cancer care. Cancer affects us all. We can all help.

Cancer Help UK

Helpline: 0808 800 4040

Breast Cancer 

Male breast cancer


Breast reconstruction

CancerHelp UK is a free information service about cancer and cancer care for people with cancer and their families.

The National Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer Helpline

Helpline:   01629 813000 (available 24 hours)


Provides help and information for those concerned about their family history of breast and ovarian cancer, and also has a useful database of women prepared to share their own experiences with others.

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