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Be breast aware

What is it?

Being Breast Aware means that you know how your breasts normally look and feel like, so that if any unusual change happens, you will recognise it.

Why is it important?

It is important to know what is normal for your breasts, so that it is easier for you to notice unusual changes. 

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women in Ireland.  1 in 11 Irish women have a change of developing breast cancer in their life.  The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for you.

When should I begin being breast aware?

All women, whatever their ages, should be Breast Aware.  If you don’t look at and feel your breasts regularly now is the time to start. 

How do I become Breast Aware?

  1. Know what is normal for you.
  2. Know what changes to look for.
  3. Look and feel.
  4. Discuss any changes with your GP without delay.
  5. Attend for routine breast screening after the age of 50.

 Know what is normal for you

Your breasts will go through many normal changes during your life.  For example, they are affected by changes in your hormones during the following times:

  • The menstrual cycle: each month, when you are having periods, your breasts often change.  They can become bigger, tender and lumpy usually before a period starts and return to normal once the period is over.  Some women may have tender, lumpy breasts throughout their cycle.  
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: the changes that happen during your menstrual cycle can also happen during pregnancy.  While breastfeeding your breasts may be very enlarged, firm and tender; this is normal at this time.  However, you should continue to be breast aware and discuss unusual changes with your GP.
  • The menopause: after the menopause your breasts will feel softer and they may bet bigger or smaller.  HRT (hormone replacement therapy) may cause your breasts to feel firmer and quite tender.  

Know what changes to look and feel for:

  • Change in size or shape – one breast may become larger than the other.
  • Changes in the nipple – in direction or shape, pulled in or flattened, or unusual discharge.
  • Changes on or around the nipple – rash, flaky or crusted skin.
  • Changes in the skin – dimpling, puckering or redness.
  • ‘Orange peel’ appearance of the skin caused by unusually enlarged pores.
  • Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.
  • A lump, any size, or thickening in your breast.
  • Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit.

Look at and feel your breasts regularly:

Look - One way to look is to use a mirror so that you can see your breasts from different angles.

Feel - An easy way to feel your breasts is with a soapy hand in the bath or shower.

Discuss any changes with your GP without delay.

  • If you do notice any change in your breast, discuss them with your GP without delay.
  • Most breast changes are not cancer and will probably be harmless.  Ask your GP to explain what the changes may be. 
  • Attend for routine breast screening after age 50.
  • BreastCheck is the national breast screening service for all women aged 50 – 64.  It is free, and takes approximately 30 minutes. 
  • The aim of BreastCheck is to detect breast cancer early.  The majority of women screened are healthy.  Breast cancer is very treatable if found early – so having a BreastCheck is the best start.

For information on the service, to register for an appointment or to check you are on the register log onto www.breastcheck.ie orfreephone 1800 45 45 55