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Clinical Breast Exam

Many health organization recommend a yearly clinical breast exam. This exam may be done by a gynecologist, family doctor, nurse practitioner, or specially trained nurse. Yearly breast exams help to ensure that breast conditions are found early.

 

Your Health Care Provider’s RoleHealth care provider explaining breast self exam.

A health care professional knows the tests and follow-up care needed if a problem is found. Your clinical exam is also a great time to ask questions about breast self-exams (BSE). You can find out whether you’re doing BSE in the most effective way. Or you may want to ask how pregnancy, breast implants, or breast reduction surgery affect the way you should examine your breasts.

Diagnostic Tests

If a clinical exam reveals a breast change, you may have other tests to find out more. These tests may include:

  • Mammography uses low-dose X-rays used to create pictures of the breast.

  • Ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of the breast.

  • Biopsy is the removal of a small amount of breast tissue by needle or incision. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.

Guidelines for Having Clinical Breast Exams

The American Cancer Society recommends starting at age 20, you should have a clinical breast exam every 1 to 3 years. After age 40, have a clinical breast exam each year. If you’re at higher risk for breast cancer, you may need more frequent exams. Risk factors for breast cancer may include:

  • Being over 50 or postmenopausal

  • A family history of breast cancer

  • Having had no pregnancies or a first pregnancy after age 30

  • Obesity

  • Heavy alcohol use

Other health organizations have different recommendations. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 4/28/2013
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