When it comes to breast cancer, the earlier it is detected, the better the outcome. And that goes for everyone.

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50 or have previously had a cancerous lump, but that doesn't mean that younger people aren't susceptible.

It's important to know the symptoms of breast cancer, and to regularly check for any physical changes to the skin, shape or size of your breasts.

Regular self checks are the best way to know your breasts and spot changes.

What should you look out for?
The most important symptom of breast cancer to look out for is a lump in the breast, even if it is painless. Most breast lumps (90%) aren’t cancerous but it’s always important to get them checked by your GP to be on the safe side.

Remember, though, lumps in the breast aren’t the only symptom. If you notice a change to the size of one or both breasts, a lump or swelling in your armpits, or a dimpling effect on the skin of your breasts, you should also make an appointment to see your GP straight away.

Discharge from the nipple, a rash on or around the nipple or a change in appearance of the nipple, for example if one or both nipples suddenly become inverted, could also be a sign that breast cancer is present.

It is also worth noting that breast pain is not usually a sign of breast cancer and hormonal changes during menstruation and menopause can cause breast pain and tenderness. But if you notice a change in one breast, you should get your GP to check it.

See your GP if you have any concerns after a self-check.

You should see your GP if you discover:

  • a new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before
  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • bloodstained discharge from either of your nipples
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • dimpling on the skin of your breasts
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

If you have symptoms, you should contact your GP without delay. Your GP can refer you to a symptomatic breast cancer service if needed.

Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among Irish women. About 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

BreastCheck is Ireland's national breast screening programme that's free to women aged 50 to 69. Breast screening is population screening and is for healthy women without symptoms.

While checking your breasts is important for women at every age, for women aged 50 to 69, breast screening is one of the most effective ways to detect breast cancer at an early stage - before there are any symptoms.

For more information visit breastcheck.ie or Freephone 1800 45 45 55.