If you notice a change in your breast or breasts, then it will undoubtedly feel or look different from what you’re used to. This may cause you to worry, but in most cases you won't need to. Many changes are normal for both men and women and won’t be doing you any harm. Although in some cases it could mean you have breast cancer.
You may notice the following changes in your breast(s):
- Your breasts are more swollen and feel tight. This is usually caused by more female hormones in your blood. For example, you may be due your period, or you may be pregnant. Boys can suffer from a thickened glandular disc behind the nipple during puberty. This won’t do any harm and will usually go away on its own. Is your breast red, warm and painful? Then you’ll probably have an infection in your breast.
- Your breast(s) hurt(s). If the pain continues after your period or pregnancy, you should have the cause investigated. That doesn’t mean it’s cancer, but you should keep a close eye on it.
- Something is leaking out of your nipple. White clear fluid may come out of your breast(s) if you’re on your period, if you’re pregnant or when you massage your breasts. This is no cause for concern and is usually hormonal. There may also be blood, brown fluid, or pus leaking out of your breast.
- You can feel a lump in your breast. A lump is different from a gland and will feel different too. It’s often harder and can be shaped like a ball or string. If it feels like a marble, it could be a cyst. That’s a ball of fluid and this can’t subsequently develop into cancer. However, in a few cases this lump will be cancer, so it’s good idea to have it investigated. Are you over 50? Then you should definitely contact your GP.
- Your skin looks different, or your nipple is taking on an odd shape or colour. Examples of associated symptoms include dented skin, flaky skin around your nipple, a retracted nipple and/or a wound which won’t heal. You should then contact your GP immediately, as these could be signs of breast cancer.
- You can feel a thickened gland in your armpit. This is usually an infection, but it can also be a symptom of breast cancer.
Keep a close eye on your breast(s) and know your own body. Examine yourself regularly if there’s a family history of breast cancer, if you have had breast cancer before and/or if you are over 50 years old. It’s best to examine your breasts during your period. Your glandular tissue will then be less fibrous and sensitive. A self-examination can certainly never do any harm if you're concerned.
Call your GP to make an appointment if:
- You feel a lump in your breast.
- Your nipple or the skin around it is flaky.
- Blood or brown fluid is coming out of your nipple.
- Fluid is draining from your nipple when you’re not on your period or pregnant.
- Your skin is dented.
- You have an enlarged gland in your armpit or near your collarbone.
- You still have pain in your breast after three months. You should contact your GP immediately if you experience breast pain and you’re over 50.
- Your nipple has taken on an odd shape or appears to be retracted.
- Your breast or nipple is warm and red.