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Signs and symptoms

When we think of breast cancer, we often think of a lump in the breast. And that makes sense: the most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump in the breast or armpit. Sometimes we find these lumps. Sometimes our partner(s) find them.

But even healthy breasts are often lumpy. And the way breasts look and feel changes over time and with hormonal cycles. So which lumps should we worry about and which ones are probably okay? It’s hard to tell. That’s why it’s important to know your body and understand what’s normal for you.

Here's what you might want to look out for:

  • The lump is present all of the time and does not get smaller or go away over a menstrual cycle.
  • The lump feels like it's attached to the skin or chest wall and can’t be moved.
  • The lump is hard, irregular in shape, and feels very different from the rest of the breast tissue.
  • The lump is tender but not painful.

Breast cancer can also look like:

  • swelling, redness and increased warmth
  • itching of the breast or nipple, especially itching that isn’t relieved by medications such as creams or ointments
  • changes in breast size or shape
  • dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • changes to a nipple, such as a nipple turning inwards, a rash around the nipple or discharge from the nipple
  • crusting, ulcers or scaling on the nipple. These may be a sign of some rare breast cancers.

Often, these symptoms aren’t caused by cancer. Remember: most lumps aren’t cancerous. And lumps are very common, especially just before your period, if you get periods. If you have a lump or other symptoms, you’ll need testing to find out more. Visit your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Remember, if you’re a woman aged 50 or older, don’t wait until you find a lump or have any other symptoms - get screened for breast cancer by getting a mammogram every two years.

Visit for more detailed information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.