Symptoms and Screening


The symptoms of breast cancer depend on where the tumour is in the breast, the size of the tumour and how quickly it is growing. 

Breast changes that may indicate breast cancer include: 

  • a new lump or swelling in the breast, especially if it’s only in one breast – it will usually feel hard, be of irregular shape, and could be of any size and located anywhere on the breast 
  • a change in the size or shape of the breast 
  • a change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion 
  • a nipple discharge  
  • a change in the skin of the breast such as redness or dimpling 
  • swelling or discomfort in the armpit or around the collarbone  
  • an unusual pain in the breast or nipple that doesn’t go away.  

Several other conditions can cause these symptoms, not just breast cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important that you talk to your doctor about them. 

Screening (BreastScreen program)

Screening mammograms help to find breast cancers early, before you can see or feel them. Women aged over 40 years can have a free mammogram every 2 years through BreastScreen Australia. If you’re aged 50 to 74 years, you’ll get a letter to invite you to get your free mammogram.  

If you’re aged under 60 years, are at high risk of developing breast cancer because of a strong family history or a genetic mutation, you can access a Medicare-subsidised magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. 

Breast self-checks

Even if you’re having regular mammograms, you should regularly check your own breasts.  

You don’t need to be an expert or use a special technique. Get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts – this will help you to detect any breast or nipple changes:  

  • look at the shape and appearance of your breasts and nipples in the mirror – both with your arms down and your arms above your head  
  • feel your nipples and breast area – from your collarbone and under your armpit to underneath your breasts. 

See the list of symptoms to know what changes to look out for. Of all breast changes, most are not due to cancer, but if you find a breast change that is unusual for you, see your general practitioner (GP) straight away to be sure.