AIM: To identify the extent of delay and the factors influencing women in seeking help from a health care professional on self discovery of a breast symptom, in an Irish context. BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women in the developed world. In Ireland, 2700 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and over 900 die from it annually. A longer delay in presenting with breast symptoms is associated with a lower rate of survival from breast cancer. However, many women wait for longer than three months before presenting to a health care professional on self discovery of a breast symptom. DESIGN: A quantitative correlational design was used. METHODS: Data were collected using the 'Women's help seeking for breast symptoms' questionnaire. Women were recruited in the breast clinic prior to their visit with the consultant. RESULTS: A total of 100 women participated, 99 of whom fully completed the questionnaire. Mean age was 40 years. It was found that 72.7% (n = 73) of women visited their GP within one month, 14.1% (n = 14) within one to three months and 10% (n = 12) after three months. Delay time was significantly related to women's knowledge and beliefs and social issues. Conversely, help seeking also correlated to women's knowledge and beliefs about the symptom and the anxiety surrounding the initial symptom discovery period. CONCLUSION: Despite breast health promotion campaigns, many women delay for one month or more, in seeking help from a health care professional for self discovered breast symptoms. Prolonged delay has potential to impact on survival from breast cancer. This highlights the need for continued education and breast health promotion for women. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Health care professionals need to be aware of possible reasons for delay in seeking help for self discovered breast symptoms and explore new ways to address these barriers.