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Doctor's breast examination

How often should I have a clinical breast examination?

The NHS recommends being ' breast aware' which includes: knowing what is normal for you, knowing what changes to look and feel for, reporting any changes to your GP, and attending the Breast Screening Programme when invited.

When should I arrange a clinical breast examination?

Breast examinations are best performed soon after your menstrual period ends, because your breasts will not be as tender and swollen as during your period. This makes it easier to detect any unusual changes. However, if you notice a change in one or both breasts then this should be checked as soon as possible.

What happens during a breast physical examination?

Your healthcare provider will ask you detailed questions about your health history, including your menstrual and pregnancy history. Questions might include what age you started menstruating, if you have children and how old you were when your first child was born.

A thorough breast examination will be performed. For the examination, you will be asked to undress from the waist up. Your healthcare provider will look at your breasts for changes in size or shape and may ask you to lift your arms above your head, put your hands on your hips or lean forward. He or she will examine your breasts for any skin changes including rashes, dimpling or redness. This is a good time to learn how to do breast self-examination if you don't already know how.

As you lie on your back with each arm behind your head in turn, your healthcare provider will examine your breasts with the pads of the fingers to detect lumps or other changes. The area under both arms will also be examined.

Your healthcare provider will gently press around your nipple to check for any discharge. If there is discharge, a sample may be collected for examination under a microscope.

Complete breast cancer screening

Clinical and breast self-examination are important methods of early breast cancer detection. Mammography, which is currently the most effective tool available for detecting any symptoms of breast cancer before they can be detected by yourself or your doctor, is offered every three years to women between the ages of 50-70 (due to be extended to ages 47-73). These three methods are considered the principal methods for breast cancer detection.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 12, 2018

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