Breast Screening & Assessment Service

Breast awareness

It is important for women to be 'breast aware'. This means getting to know how your breasts feel and becoming familiar with what is normal for you.

If you are aware of the usual shape and feel of your breasts, this will help you to recognise any changes.

Breast cancer can occur at any time, so it is important to be breast aware in between your mammograms. If you are ever concerned about any changes with your breasts, seek advice from your GP straight away.

It is important to know that most changes are not breast cancer.

What are the changes to look and feel for?

In between your breast scans, you should make sure you examine your breasts regularly. You should look for:

  • any change in the size, shape or outline of the breast (it may be normal for you to have one breast larger than the other)
  • a change in the position of the nipples
  • any bleeding or weeping from the nipple
  • veins standing out more than usual
  • any new skin or nipple rash
  • any swelling or dimpling
  • any puckering of the skin
  • a lump or thickening in the breast or armpit that is new for you.

These changes should be checked for in the breasts, under the arms and right up to the collar bone. 

How often should I do this?

The Department of Health encourages women to be aware of what is normal for them. However, they advise that there is no scientific evidence to show that self-examination, performed at the same time every month is more effective than a more relaxed approach to breast awareness.

They suggest that women use the Breast Awareness Five-Point Code:

  1. Know what is normal for you
  2. Look and feel
  3. Know what changes to look for
  4. Report any changes without delay
  5. Attend for breast screening if aged 50 or over.


The Breast Screening Service is for well women, and is not intended for women who already have symptoms.

If you are concerned about any changes in your breasts, you should contact your GP straight away. If your doctor feels that you would benefit from further investigations you will be referred to the RVI or a breast outpatient clinic at your local hospital. You should receive your appointment within two weeks of seeing your GP.

Family history

It is important to say that the majority of breast cancers are not inherited or linked to family history in any way. If you have a relative who has had breast cancer, it does not necessarily mean that your risk of developing it increases.

If you are concerned about being at higher risk of breast cancer due to your family history, please speak to your GP.

More information

You can find more information about breast awareness at:

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