Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women in Northern Ireland after non-melanoma skin cancer. Breast cancer can occur at any age. However, the risk of developing it increases with age. Most breast cancers occur in women over 50. If it is found early, there is a better chance that treatment will be successful.

Signs and symptoms

Common symptoms include:  


  • a change in size or outline of either breast, especially those caused by arm movement;
  • any puckering, dimpling or redness of the skin;
  • veins that stand out more than usual.


  • any lumps or thickening in either breast that feels different from the other breast;
  • any swelling or lumps under your armpit or around your collarbone.

Nipple change:

  • a nipple that has become pulled in, changed shape or shows signs of any discharge, bleeding, rash or crusted, flaky skin.

If you regularly experience any of the above symptoms, it is important that you see your GP.

Breast cancer: Jan's story; Linda's story; Randa's story.

Screening for breast cancer

All women aged 50-70 are invited to attend for a mammogram at their local breast screening unit every three years. Women over 70 are still at risk of breast cancer. Although they are not routinely invited for breast screening, they are encouraged to call their local screening unit to request breast screening every three years. Breast screening uses a low dose X-ray test called a mammogram to check the breast for signs of cancer.

Breast screening saves lives from breast cancer. It does this by finding cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel. This is when treatment can be most effective. However, breast screening does have some risks. The leaflet Helping you decide provides more information. 

Below is a video showing what happens when a woman goes for breast screening.

Find out more about the Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme

Breast family history

Health care professionals and patients from across Northern Ireland have developed information and resources for people who may have a risk of developing breast cancer due to their family history. For more information visit Breast family history resources | Northern Ireland Cancer Network


There are a number of websites that provide information relating to breast cancer, these include:

This is not an exhaustive list and other sources of support in Northern Ireland can also be accessed via Northern Ireland Cancer Network.