The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment. So it's important to check your breasts regularly and see your GP if you notice a change.

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

On its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer. But look out for pain that’s there all or most of the time.

Noticing an unusual change doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer, and most breast changes are not because of cancer. But it’s important to get checked by your GP.

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.

Check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits.

Do this regularly to check 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

A breast with a lump and swelling


A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit

A change to texture


A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling


A breast which has changed colour


A change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed


A breast with a nipple that has changed


A nipple change, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)


A breast with a rash and crusting around the nipple area


Rash or crusting around the nipple


 breast with a nipple that has discharge


Unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple


A breast which has changed size and shape

Changes in size or shape of the breast


A breast with colour indicating pain


Pain in your breast or armpit that’s there all or almost all the time


Have you felt or seen anything unusual? If so, make sure you get checked out by your doctor as soon as possible.

If your doctor thinks you need any further testing, they will refer you to a breast clinic to see a specialist. Find out more about being referred to a breast clinic.


Mandee smiling

I had first noticed the dip a few weeks earlier. It was no bigger than the tip of my finger, but at the time I was more worried about a mole on my back. I’m so glad I got my dip checked out by my doctor.

Mandee, 45

Read Mandee's story >


What will happen when I see my GP?

See your GP as soon as possible if you notice any unusual changes in your breast.

Your GP will examine your breasts.

After examining your breasts, your GP may:

  • feel that there’s no need for further investigation
  • ask to see you again after a short time
  • refer you to a breast clinic

Being referred to a breast clinic doesn’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. It just means that more tests are needed to find out what’s going on.  

If your GP is male and you don’t feel comfortable going to see him, ask if there’s a female doctor available. You can also ask for a female nurse or member of staff to be present during your examination, or you can take a friend or relative with you.


If you're worried about breast health or breast cancer you can speak to our breast care nurses for free by calling 0808 800 6000 or by email.

Last reviewed: August 2019
Next planned review begins 2021

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