How to be breast aware

How to be Breast Aware

Breast cancer seems to be caused by lots of things working together, until eventually a cancer is triggered. These can include your genetic make-up, hormonal factors, diet, exercise, your lifestyle, and environmental factors.

To be breast aware means

  • To know some basic facts
  • To know how to check yourself
  • To know about screening
  • To deal with the risk factors in your own life

Some basic facts

  • The risk of getting breast cancer increases with age
  • Your risk of getting breast cancer when young is higher if you have a family history
  • Most lumps in the breast are harmless
  • Breast pain associated with your menstrual cycle is common and usually harmless

How to check yourself

  • No special or complex routine is needed
  • We recommend TLC – Touch, Look, Check


  • Use the flat of your hand not finger tips
  • Wet soapy hands in the bath or shower may be easier
  • Can you feel a lump in the breast?
  • Can you feel a lump in the armpit?
  • Is there a lumpy area that was not there before and does not go with your next period?


  • In the mirror; arms by your side; arms raised
  • Is there a change in the shape of your breast?
  • Is there a change in the skin; dimpling or puckering?
  • Is there a change in your nipple eg. pulled in?
  • Is there blood-stained discharge from the nipple?


  • Seek help from your doctor if you notice a change. Ask your GP to refer you to a Breast Clinic within 2 weeks.

The following groups of women should have regular screening:

  • Women between 30 and 50 who have a family history, eg a first degree relative with breast cancer (mother or sister) especially if they were diagnosed under 50 years old.Our specialists will give you advice if you answer `yes’ to both of these. You may be offered gene testing and MR scans as well as mammograms. 
  • All women between 50 and 70 years of age will receive an NHS invitation every 3 years for a mammogram.  Remember most recalls after screening turn out to be harmless and breast cancers caught this way have a very high cure rate.

Deal with the Risk Factors in your life - Check out your family

  • Do you have a close relative with breast cancer?
  • Were they under 50 or premenopausal at diagnosis?
  • If so, find out about other family members who have had breast or ovarian cancer; construct a family tree our specialists can advise whether your family history suggests a genetic link

Hormonal factors

  • Having children when you are young is mildly protective
  • Breast-feeding is mildly protective


  • Switch to a more mediterranean diet
  • Eat least five portions of fruit or veg a day
  • Cut down your calories e.g. cakes and biscuits
  • Get your weight down to its ideal level
  • Follow the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Diet on


  • Burn off more calories
  • Make exercise a regular part of your week


  • Have a low alcohol lifestyle
  • Aim to stop the Pill before you are 30 years old
  • Use HRT for a short time; not continuously for years

Environmental factors

  • There is no direct evidence at present of a proven link between the environment and breast cancer
  • Reducing your exposure to artificial chemicals in cosmetics, plastic products, preservatives and pesticides seems a sensible precaution

Our ‘take home’ message
The chances of being completely cured of breast cancer are now higher than ever. The best chance comes if you catch it quickly. The Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre in Manchester and Spire Manchester Hospital promote early diagnosis, screening and prevention as the best anti-dotes to breast cancer.

For more information see the website

Spire Manchester Hospital, runs a Breast Care Clinic - For further details please contact 0161 232 2303.

Breast Care Clinic
The information for this article has been provided by:
Consultant General Surgeon Mr Lester Barr BSc MBChB (Hons) FRCS ChM
Consultant General Surgeon Professor Nigel James Bundred MB BS MD FRCS(Eng) FRCS(Ed)
Consultant General Surgeon Mr Gerard John Byrne MBChB FRCS (Gen) FRCS ~ (Ed) MD

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Our Consultant Breast Oncoplastic Breast Surgeons at Spire Manchester Hospital

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