Breast cancer

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50, but younger women can also get breast cancer. About 1 in 7 women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. There’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected at an early stage, so it is very important to go to a GP if you notice any change in your breasts.

Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. Find out more about breast cancer in men.

How to check your breasts

You should get into the practice of checking for lumps and changes in your breasts. See below for how to perform a breast self-examination.

Breast cancer screening

As a preventative measure, make sure you attend your screening appointments when invited. See here for further information about when you may be invited and what it involves.


Breast cancer can have several symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it’s always best to have them checked by a doctor.

Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.

Find out more about the symptoms of breast cancer.

If you notice any changes in your breasts, you should contact your GP immediately.

Your GP appointment

Before your appointment

Going to the doctor when you think you have symptoms of breast cancer can be really scary. But just going to the GP is the first step in tackling it. Your doctor is there to help you by checking for any lumps, answering your questions and referring you if they think it is necessary.

If you would prefer to see a female GP or nurse, then please say this when booking the appointment

In order to get the most out of your appointment, you should come prepared with the following information:

  • Write down your symptoms including when they started, when they happen and how often you have them.
  • Write down anything that makes them worse or better.
  • Any family history of cancer (especially breast or ovarian)
  • Any previous breast surgery or breast tests that you have had 

During your appointment

Your doctor will start by asking you questions relating to your symptoms and medical history. They may also do the following:

  • Examine your breasts. You may ask for a chaperone
  • Examine the lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
  • Check your blood pressure
  • Check your heart rate
  • Take your temperature

After your appointment

Your doctor may then refer you to a specialised breast clinic. This does not automatically mean that you have breast cancer. It is just so that specialist can run some more tests on you.

You will normally be referred to a ‘one stop’ breast clinic where you can have several tests in one day. These appointments take a few hours and can include:

  • Breast examination
  • Mammogram
  • Breast ultrasound scan
  • Breast biopsy

Resources and support

  • Breast Cancer Now has a helpline for anybody with breast cancer, has a family member or friend with it, or who simply wants to ask more about breast health. Callers are able to speak with trained breast care nurses to answer any questions.
    – Call 0808 800 6000 or click here for more information