Breast Cancer Signs and Self Check Steps

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this year’s theme is “Care for your Pair”. Because Breast Cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis in Ireland, we are here to help you get Breast Aware and check for early signs of Breast Cancer.

One in nine women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis with 3,700 new cases being diagnosed each year. Unfortunately, there are over 690 deaths a year as a result of breast cancer, however while incident rates are rising, mortality rates have been declining by 2% annually.

While it is more common in women over the age of 70 (36%) and aged 50 to 69 (34%), 23% of all breast cancer diagnosis are in women between 20-50 years, according to Breast Cancer Ireland.

Breast Cancer does not just occur in women, with 37 men a year diagnosed, that’s 1 in 1000!

Breast Cancer Statistics and Signs

The Marie Keating Foundation’s Breast Cancer Awareness 5-point Code advises:

  1. Know what is Normal for you
  2. Know what changes to Look and Feel for
  3. Look and Feel for Changes
  4. Report Any Changes to your Doctor without Delay
  5. Attend Routine Breast Screenings if you are 50-64 years of age

Getting to know your breasts or becoming Breast Aware is the best thing you can to in helping to spot any early signs of Breast Cancer. No two breasts are the same and as women your breast can change at different times of the month due to hormones. Knowing what is normal for you is the first step in being breast aware.

Signs and Symptoms

  • A lump, thickening or bumpy areas in the breast or armpit that seem different from other breast tissue. (Always consult your GP if you discover any new lumps)
  • Any changes in the size, shape or feel of the breast – one may become lower than the other
  • Changes to the nipple – crusting, ulceration, bleeding
  • Change in the direction or shape of the nipple – retraction or inversion.
  • Discharge from one or both of your nipples.
  • Red scaly rash on one nipple
  • Dimpling (like an orange peel) of the skin – can also present as puckering or redness
  • Unusual Swelling in either armpits or around your collarbone.
  • Soreness or warmth in one or both breasts


Once you familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer it is then time to familiarise yourself with your own breasts. In Ireland women over the age of 50 are offered free breast screening which involves a mammogram. These screenings continue every two years up until the age of 69. However there are current talks about decreasing the age for free breast screenings.

To check your eligibility or enquire about your free breast screening Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or check the register here.

Breast changes can occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle, while breastfeeding, or throughout menopause. That is why it is important to know your breasts, know what is normal for you, and to conduct regular self-checks.


Easy Breast Self-Check Steps:

Using a mirror look and inspect your breasts. With arms by your side, then raise your arms to check for any changes or dimpling. Lean over to check for any changes in size, inflammation, or enlargement.

– Lying Down, use opposite hand to breast. Using three fingertips, the index finger, ring finger and middle finger, start from the centre of your breast and work yourself outward in small circular motions, applying pressure to check for any lumps or changes.

– Cover the entire area of the breast, from the collarbone to below the breast, the space in between your breasts and along the armpits.

– Repeat with your free arm bent behind your head.

Repeat standing in the shower with soap making it easier to move and feel tissue or lumps.

Compress/Squeeze nipples to check for any discharge (unless breastfeeding)

Note any changes and contact your GP with ANY concerns.


Breast Self-checks should be conducted monthly by anyone over the age of 20. The opportune time to conduct a breast self-check is 7-10 days after a menstrual period.
Survival rates in Breast Cancer in Ireland have increased to 85% due to increased awareness and breast screening.  At present, there are over 2, 533 women in Ireland who have survived Breast Cancer.

Nine out of 10 breast changes are not an indication or result of cancer however it is always important to consult your GP if you notice any changes.

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