Checking your breasts or chests

Breast cancer can affect any body. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, trans, non-binary or gender-diverse. All bodies have breast tissue and can be affected by breast cancer.

Breast cancer is very common. When it’s found early, it’s also very treatable and survival rates are higher.

This means it’s important for everyone to know the changes to look out for and to check their breasts and chests. This kind of self-examination can help you get to know your body and spot any changes early.

We’re going to talk about breasts and chests in this article, and we’ll say breast when we need to be medically accurate. We know that not everyone uses these terms for these parts of their bodies.

How do I check?

There’s no right or wrong way to check. The important thing is to learn how your chest usually looks and feels, and then know what to do if you find any changes.

We recommend checking regularly, at different times of the month, so you can get to know what’s normal for you.

If you have periods, then your breast tissue is likely to change throughout the month as part of your cycle. Knowing what’s a normal change for you will help you spot anything out of the ordinary.

Similarly, if you’re taking oestrogen as part of gender-affirming hormone therapy, then your breasts can feel tender as they grow. Get to know your new normal with gentle self-examination.

People with breast implants can still be affected by breast cancer. Luckily, if you’ve got implants, you do not need to do anything different. You can follow the same steps to check your breasts and get any changes checked out.

For trans men and non-binary people who’ve had top surgery, you should talk with your surgeon about checking your chest. You might have some areas, like around your nipples or under your armpits, that have some breast tissue.

To check your breasts and chest, you need to take a look and have a feel. You might want to do this in front of a mirror, or in the shower. You might not know that your breast tissue can reach all the way up to your collarbones and round under your armpits - you should check this whole area each time.

What to check for

Look for:

  • changes in your skin texture, like dimpling or puckering

  • change in size or shape of your breast, outside of what’s usual for you

  • swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone

  • changes to the position or shape of your nipples

  • redness, rashes or dry, scaly skin

  • discharge from your nipples

Feel for:

  • a new lump, swelling, thickening or bumpy area

  • unusual pain or discomfort in your breast or armpit

Make these checks a part of your routine, so you’re checking regularly. Lots of people find it easy to do their checks in the shower.

If it feels hard to look at or touch your chest, you can try different positions or check yourself underneath loose clothes. You might want to wait for a day when it feels easier to look at and feel this area.

If you notice a change

Most changes that happen to our breasts and chests are natural and harmless. But if you’re worried about something or you’ve noticed an unusual change, contact your GP. They’ll be able to examine the area and check for any symptoms.

For more information and advice about self-checking or breast cancer, take a look at CoppaFeel! and the NHS website.

Written by Hel Burrough. Senior Content Designer, SH:24 and Fettle
Reviewed by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Last updated at: 05 December 2023