If you have a sign or symptom of breast cancer, you may be referred to a breast clinic.

Why am I being referred to a breast clinic?

If you’ve asked your GP about a sign or symptom you’ve noticed and they’ve decided you need further tests you will be referred to a breast clinic to see a specialist. 

Your GP will follow national guidelines when deciding whether or not to refer you to a breast clinic. The guidelines outline how quickly you’ll be seen depending on your symptoms.  These guidelines are used as a reference by healthcare professionals and you may find some terms confusing. 

See our full list of signs and symptoms of breast cancer to be aware of.

It’s normal to worry if your doctor refers you to see a specialist. But it’s important to remember that most people who have tests at a breast clinic find out they do not have breast cancer. 

How long do I have to wait for an appointment?

How long you wait for an appointment can depend on which nation you live in, and in some cases may depend on your individual hospital. 

When you are waiting for your appointment, you can continue to talk to your GP about any concerns you have and ask for support if you need it. 

If you live in England 

In England, you’ll be urgently referred to see a specialist within two weeks if you: 

  • Are over 30 and have an unexplained lump in your breast or your armpit 
  • Are over 50 and have any changes to your nipple which include unusual nipple discharge (for example, discharge that is blood stained) or if your nipple is inverted (turned in) 
  • Have any changes to the skin of your breast, such as puckering or dimpling

In some cases when your GP refers you to see a specialist, it may be a longer wait than an urgent referral and your GP may seek advice from a specialist about whether to refer you. This is known as a non-urgent referral.

In England, this should still be within two weeks. You should be referred to see a specialist under these guidelines if you: 

  • Are under 30 and have an unexplained lump in your breast 

Find the official guidelines for England on the NICE website 

If you live in Wales

In Wales, your GP will normally follow the same guidance as England. If you are urgently referred to see a specialist, you will be seen as quickly as possible. Ideally this should be within 10 working days. 

In Wales you’ll be urgently referred if you: 

  • Are over 30 and have an unexplained lump in your breast or your armpit 
  • Are over 50 and have any changes to your nipple which include unusual nipple discharge (for example, discharge that is blood stained) or if your nipple is inverted (turned in) 
  • Have any changes to the skin of your breast, such as puckering or dimpling

Non-urgent referrals will be seen as soon as possible on a case by case basis. In Wales, your waiting times may be dependent on your individual hospital.   

You should be referred to see a specialist under these guidelines if you: 

  • Are under 30 and have an unexplained lump in your breast

Find the official guidelines for Wales on the NICE website 

If you live in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland there are no specific referral waiting times, but if you have certain symptoms that could be breast cancer, you will be urgently referred to see a specialist and should be seen as quickly as possible. This should ideally be within two weeks. 

In Northern Ireland, you’ll be urgently referred (under Red Flag referral) if you:

  • Are over 30 and have an unexplained persistent lump in your breast or armpit 
  • Are under 30, have an unexplained lump in your breast or armpit and have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer 
  • Have any changes to the skin of your breast that don’t go away 
  • Have any changes to the nipple such as any unusual discharge (for example, discharge that is blood stained) or if your nipple is inverted (turned in) 

Non-urgent referrals will be seen as soon as possible on a case by case basis. In Northern Ireland, your waiting times may be dependent on your individual hospital. 

You will be referred under these guidelines if you: 

  • Are under 30 and have an unexplained lump in your breast or armpit
  • Have breast pain with unexplained persistent symptoms, or pain that doesn’t disappear 

Find the official guidelines for Northern Ireland on the Northern Ireland Cancer Network website 

If you live in Scotland 

In Scotland there are no specific referral waiting times, but if you have certain symptoms that could be breast cancer, you will be urgently referred to see a specialist and should be seen as quickly as possible. This should ideally be within 28 days. 

In Scotland you’ll be urgently referred if you: 

  • Are over 35 and have a lump in your breast or armpit 
  • Have a cyst in your breast that keeps coming back 
  • Have any changes to your nipples such as bloody discharge, a rash (that doesn’t go away) or if your nipple is inverted (turned in) 
  • Have any changes to the skin of your breast, such as dimpling or a change in texture
  • Have any inflammation of your breast which doesn’t go away after being treated with antibiotics 

Routine, or non-urgent referrals will be seen as soon as possible on a case by case basis. In Scotland, your waiting times may be dependent on your individual hospital. 

In Scotland, you will be referred under routine, or non-urgent guidelines if you: 

  • Are under 35 and have an unexplained lump in your breast with no other symptoms
  • Are experiencing persistent pain in your breasts 

Find the official guidelines for Scotland on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website 

More information 

If you are referred to a breast clinic when attending routine breast screening, this information won’t apply as the referral process is different. Find out about breast screening

If you have any questions about the referral process, talk to your GP. They will be able to provide you with more information. 

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Information last reviewed: March 2018

Next review: March 2021

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