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Spot breast cancer early

Watch our video to find out more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and why spotting breast cancer early is important. 

At the bottom of the page, you can see the full-length video.

View a transcript of the full Spot breast cancer early video.


"Well over 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer but thanks to medical science, here I still am. Although the prognosis in those days wasn’t very good, I actually detected mine quite early. I did it myself by regularly feeling my breast and discovering that something was slightly amiss. My instinct told me I needed to pursue it, which I did. Don’t be frightened. Be like me. Be hale and hearty when you’re old, despite breast cancer."

- Sheila Hancock, actress

Spotting breast cancer early can save lives. It’s important for women to be ‘breast aware’:

  • know what is normal for you
  • look at and feel your breasts
  • know what changes to look for
  • report any changes without delay

Being ‘breast aware’ means getting to know what’s normal for your breasts - how they look and feel, and how this changes at different times of the month. If you know what they normally look and feel like, it’ll be easier to notice any unusual changes.

Check your breasts in a way that's comfortable for you, perhaps in the bath or shower. Look out for:

  • a change in the size, shape or feel of your breast
  • a new lump or thickening in one breast or armpit
  • puckering, dimpling or redness of the skin
  • changes in the position of the nipple or nipple discharge
  • new pain or discomfort that is only on one side.

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s really important that you get checked out by a doctor.

When you call to make an appointment you can ask to see a female doctor. If one is available she will be keen to see you. For help registering with a GP, visit or call 0845 46 47.


"I would say to any woman who notices anything wrong with her breasts to get it checked out as soon as possible. Hopefully there won’t be anything wrong but if you do need treatment the sooner it’s started the better. I’ve had so many good things happen to me since I’ve had my treatment".

- Janet Tucker, breast cancer survivor

Screening for breast cancer

Breast cancer is treatable, but it’s vital to spot the disease early so that treatment has a better chance of success. Breast screening can pick up cancers when they are too small to see or feel.

Julietta Patnick, Director of NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, explains, "The NHS breast screening programme invites women every three years between the ages of 50 and 70 to have a breast x-ray so that if a cancer is there we can find it early and treat it. A mammogram can pick up very small changes in the breast, too small to be felt."

After the age of 70, you can still get a screening appointment by asking your GP.

View a transcript of the full Spot breast cancer early video.

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Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team
Updated: 25 September 2009