Seeing your GP when you have symptoms of breast cancer

You should see your doctor if you notice a change that isn't normal for you. Or if you have any of the possible signs and symptoms of cancer. 

Even if you're worried about what the symptom might be, don't delay seeing them. If you're finding it difficult to get an appointment you should keep trying. Your worry is unlikely to go away if you don’t see someone about it. 

The symptom might not be due to cancer. But if it is, the earlier it's picked up the higher the chance of successful treatment. You won't be wasting your doctor's time. 

Try not to be embarrassed. What you tell your GP is confidential. Doctors are used to discussing intimate problems and will try to put you at ease.

Getting the most out of your GP appointment

You may have your appointment in person, over the telephone or as a video call. However you speak to your GP it can be difficult to remember everything you want to say. These tips will help you get the most out of your appointment.


  • Write down your symptoms including when they started, when they happen and how often you have them.
  • Write down anything that makes them worse or better.
  • If you would like to see a male doctor, or would prefer a female doctor, ask when you book the appointment - the receptionist will tell you if it is possible.
  • Tell your GP if you are worried about cancer.
  • Tell them if you have any family history of cancer.
  • Have a friend or relative with you for support - they could also ask questions and take notes to help you remember what the GP says.
  • Ask the GP to explain anything you don’t understand.
  • Ask the GP to write things down for you if you think it might help - if you are having a telephone or video appointment ask for the information to be left at reception for you to pick up.

Tips for telephone appointments

You might have a telephone appointment with your GP instead of a face to face. You can watch a video with top tips for phone and digital appointments with your doctor. The video lasts 1 minute and 43 seconds.

What happens during your GP appointment

Your doctor needs to build up a picture of what's going on. So they will ask you some questions. These include:

  • what symptoms you have
  • when you get them
  • whether anything makes them better or worse

They will ask you about your general health and any other medical conditions you have. 

Let your GP know about any:

  • previous breast surgery or breast tests that you have had 
  • family members that have or have had breast or ovarian cancer

During a face to face appointment your doctor may want to examine you. You can ask for someone else to be in the room if you want, to act as a chaperone. This chaperone can be a friend or relative, or a trained health professional such as a practice nurse. They can be with you during the examination or throughout the appointment. 

If you would rather see a male or a female doctor it is worth asking when you book the appointment. 

Tests your GP might do

Your doctor might do some general tests. If you have had a telephone appointment your doctor might arrange for you to come in and see them. They may check your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. 

Your GP will also usually examine your breasts and might also feel the lymph nodes Open a glossary item under your arms and in your neck.

Depending on your symptoms, your GP might refer you to a breast clinic.

Breast clinic appointment

Your doctor might refer you to a breast clinic for more tests. This is usually a 'one stop' breast clinic where you can have several tests in one day. It’s also known as a triple assessment. These appointments take a few hours.

The tests you have can diagnose breast cancer and other breast conditions. These might include:

  • breast examination
  • mammogram
  • breast ultrasound scan
  • a breast biopsy

Questions you might want to ask your GP

  • Do I need to see a specialist? Is it urgent?
  • When will I see them?
  • Where will I see them?
  • Will I find out about my appointments by post or telephone?
  • Do I need tests? What will they involve?
  • How long should I expect to wait?
  • Where can I find out more about tests?
  • Do I have to do anything in preparation for this test?
  • When will I get the results and who will tell me?

Your GP might not be able to answer all of your questions. They will tell you what they can at this point. Not knowing is difficult to cope with and can make you anxious.

Speaking to a friend or relative about how you feel might help.

If your GP doesn't think you need any tests or a referral

  • Can you explain why I don’t need to have tests or see a specialist?
  • Is there anything I can do to help myself?
  • Do I need to see you again?
  • Who do I contact if my symptoms continue or get worse, especially during the night or at weekends?

What happens next?

Make sure you know what happens next. Make another appointment if your symptoms don’t clear up, or if they change or get worse.

How to find a GP

If you don’t have a GP, you can find a doctor’s surgery in your local area by going to:

Making a GP appointment

To make an appointment to see your GP you:

  • can telephone your GP surgery

  • book an appointment online through your GP surgery website (if they have one)

  • may be able to use the NHS App

If it's difficult to get through to the GP surgery by phone try calling at a different time of the day. Or try calling on a different day. It could be particularly busy in the mornings or on a Monday. Although it can be frustrating you should keep trying. Some GP surgeries offer to call you back if you are in a telephone queue.  

You might be able to go to your GP surgery to book an appointment. But not all surgeries offer this service. It may help to see if your GP surgery has a website - this will explain the best way to get an appointment. 

You don’t have to tell the receptionist why you want to see the doctor, although sometimes it might help to explain your situation. 

You may be asked to attend in person, especially if your GP needs to examine you. Or the receptionist may offer you a telephone or video appointment first. If your GP needs to see you after this they will ask you to make another appointment. The receptionist will give you a date and time for this. 

Accept a booked appointment even if you think it’s a long time to wait. You could ask about cancellations if you're able to get to the surgery at short notice. Check that the surgery has the right details for you, including your telephone number and email.  

Contact the GP surgery again if your symptoms change or get worse.

If you are worried

For information and support, you can contact the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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