What You Need to Know About Breast Exams

Clinical breast examinations can detect a lump in your breast and other changes that might require more testing. Breast exams are one of the most important early breast cancer screenings.

The purpose of breast cancer screenings is to catch problems early on. It is crucial to use screening to identify this type of cancer because symptoms may not appear right away. Regular screenings can detect cancer before it spreads to other parts of your body so that they can increase your chances of survival.

Why are breast exams important?

Breast exams improve the chances of finding breast cancer early. And the earlier breast cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.

During a clinical breast exam, a trained medical professional will assess your breasts to determine whether they look and feel healthy. If lumps or anything unusual is found, further testing will be recommended.

When should I get a breast exam?

The below guidelines are for women at average risk of cancer.

  1. Ages 20 – 39: clinical breast exam every one to three years to check for breast cancer

  2. Ages 40-69: mammogram and clinical breast exam every year to check for breast cancer.

If you are at high risk to develop cancer because of your personal or family medical history, screening may need to happen more frequently. This information should be disclosed during your breast exam.

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all. Should you start to exhibit any of the below warning signs, do not wait until your next screening; book a medical consultation urgently:

  1. New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

  2. Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

  3. Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

  4. Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

  5. Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

  6. Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

  7. Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

Regardless of your age, practice breast awareness. This means you should be familiar with your breasts so that you’ll notice any changes and report them to your doctor without delay.

How’s a breast exam done?

A trained medical professional will check your breasts for any possible signs of breast cancer or other breast problems during a clinical breast exam. They’ll also talk with you about your breast cancer risks and what you can do to prevent it.

You’ll take off any clothing that covers your breasts. You may get a gown or sheet to cover yourself with before the exam starts. They will look at both of your breasts to see the shape, size, and texture of your skin. They’ll feel your breasts and also check your armpits to check if there are any lumps or if something else doesn’t feel normal.

The bottom line

Don’t avoid having a clinical breast exam because you’re scared. It is a quick and painless procedure that can pick up very early signs of breast cancer. Detecting breast cancer early with screening gives you a greater chance at a cure.