Being breast aware and self-examination

It's important to be "breast aware" and check your breasts regularly for changes. This is so you can identify any problems in your breasts. Any unusual changes to your breasts should be checked by your GP as soon as possible.

Coronavirus: restoration and recovery of the Breast Cancer Screening Programme

Routine breast cancer screening was temporarily paused from the second week in March 2020.   

This was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Department of Health has now called for the phased restoration of all paused screening programmes.  This has begun and routine breast cancer screening restarted from 20 July 2020.

The four month pause to date has resulted in a backlog of women awaiting screening.  In addition, the screening programme will not be able to screen the same number of women as it did before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This is due to the need for social distancing and appropriate infection control measures.  It will therefore take many months to get the programme up and running at normal levels again.

How to be breast aware

Breast awareness means knowing your breasts and being aware of what changes are normal for you.

You can become familiar with your breasts by regularly looking at, and feeling, them in any way that is best for you. Health professionals no longer recommend a set way to check your breasts. It’s important to feel all parts of your breasts including:

  • your nipples
  • in and around your armpits

Breast awareness five point code

  1. Know what is normal for you
  2. Know what changes to look and feel for
  3. Look and feel
  4. Report any changes to your GP immediately
  5. Attend for breast screening from the age of 50

If you are over 50 and have attended your screening appointment, it will be 3 years until your next appointment.  In this three year period it is important you are "breast aware" and are able to self-examine your breasts.

When to see your GP

It is important you see your GP as soon as possible if you notice a change in your breasts. Finding a change in your breast can be a worry. Most changes are harmless but you should make an appointment to see your GP immediately.

Changes you should be looking for include:

  • changes in appearance, size or outline of either breast, especially those caused by arm movement
  • any puckering, dimpling or redness of the skin or veins that stand out more than usual
  • pain or discomfort in one part of either breast or armpit, particularly if new and persistent
  • any lumps or thickening in either breast that feels different from the other breast
  • any swelling or lumps under your armpit or around your collarbone
  • changes to your nipples, including nipples that have become pulled in, changed shape or show signs of discharge, bleeding, rash or crusted, flaky skin

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