Self Examination Between Visits

If your first mammogram is normal, then it will be three years before your next screening appointment.  This is known as "Routine Recall" ie  you will be recalled for the next screening appointment at the normal interval. In this three year interval it is important that you become "Breast Aware" and are able to carry out your own examinations.  Each woman will be different, but you should know what feels normal for you.

Doctors no longer recommend a set procedure for self examination.  So becoming breast aware means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel.  You can become familiar with your breast tissue by looking and feeling - choose the way that is the most comfortable for you, for example in the bath. shower or when dressing.

Follow the 5-point breast awareness code:

  1. Know what is normal for you
  2. Check both the look and feel of your breasts
  3. Know what changes to look and feel for
  4. Report any changes to your GP without delay
  5. Always attend routine breast screening if you are aged 50 or over

Nine out of ten breast cancers are detected by women themselves or their partners. Although most breast changes will prove to be benign (non-cancerous) women should always report any concern to their GP.  A short film on how to carry out self examiniation may be found here.

Changes to look for

Your breasts will change throughout life and will be affected by your menstrual cycle, your age, pregnancy, the menopause and taking the contraceptive pill. So it’s important to remember that changes in how your breasts look and feel aren’t always a cause for concern. For example, it’s normal for your breasts to feel tender or lumpy just before your period, especially near your armpits. This happens when the milk-producing tissue in your breasts becomes active.

During and after the menopause, your breasts may change in size. They may also feel softer and less lumpy as activity in the milk-producing tissue of your breasts stops. If you have a hysterectomy before the menopause, your breasts may still feel tender or lumpy each month, even though your periods have stopped. This is because your ovaries are still working and producing hormones. You may notice monthly changes in your breasts until the time when your periods would have stopped naturally (the menopause).

Breast changes to seek advice about

See your GP if you notice any changes that aren’t normal for you, especially if the changes are only in one breast.

Breast changes to look out for include:
  • a change in the size, shape or feel of your breast dimpling,
  • puckering or redness of the skin a rash or crusting on your nipple
  • surrounding area a change in your nipple, such as a change in the shape or if it turns into the breast (becomes inverted)
  • a discharge from your nipple (unless you’re breastfeeding)
  • bleeding from your nipple area pain in part of your breast or armpit swelling,
  • thickening or a lump in your breast or armpit
These symptoms don’t mean that you have breast cancer. But if you have them, see your GP.