Breast health 

It is recommended that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in Ireland (excluding skin cancer). Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50, but younger women can also get breast cancer.

About 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. There's a good chance of recovery if it is detected in its early stages. 

The most important symptom of breast cancer is a breast lump, which is usually painless.

Most breast lumps (90%) aren't cancerous, but it's always best to have them checked by your doctor.

Breast pain 

There are many reasons breasts can be painful. Breast pain by itself is very unlikely to be a symptom of cancer.

Symptoms of breast pain caused by periods:

  • dull, heavy or aching pain – from mild to very bad

  • pain that begins up to 2 weeks before a period, gets worse and then goes away when the period ends

  • usually (but not always) affects both breasts and sometimes pain spreads to the armpit

How to ease the pain: 

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen, or rub painkilling gel on your breasts

  • wear a properly fitted bra during the day and a soft bra to sleep in

  • take Evening Primrose Oil

Sometimes breast pain is caused by:

  • injuries or sprains to the neck, shoulder or back – these can also be felt as breast pain

  • medicines like the contraceptive pill and some antidepressants. Check the side effects in the packet's information leaflet

  • conditions like mastitis or a breast abscess. These can cause breast pain along with other symptoms

  • pregnancy – breast pain can be an early sign

Breast pain and the menopause

Hormone changes during the menopause can cause breast pain.

Once the menopause is over (you've had 12 months without a period) the pain usually settles.

Breast screening information

Breast screening helps find cancer at an early stage. If it’s found early, it’s easier to treat and there’s a better chance of recovery.

Breast screening involves having a mammogram of your breasts. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to find breast cancer when it's too small to see or feel.

Breast screening takes place at a BreastCheck clinic or a mobile screening unit.

Your details should automatically be on the register.

You'll get a letter with your results within 3 weeks of your mammogram. Your GP will also get your results.

In most cases, results are normal and no cancer is found.

Breast screening does not find all breast cancer. But screening has been proven to lower the number of women dying from breast cancer.

Your first invitation will depend on when screening is available in your area. This is normally within 2 years of your 50th birthday.

Invitations are delayed due to COVID-19. You may be 53 when you get your first invitation.

The risk of breast cancer increases as you get older. If you are age 50 to 69 you'll be offered breast screening every 2 years.

If you are not between 50 and 69 years of age, you are not eligible for breast screening. Contact your GP if you're worried about any symptoms you may have.

Useful links 

How to check your breasts video.

If you did not get a letter, check your name is on the breast screening register, or call the Freephone number on 1800 45 45 55.