No matter your individual risk for breast cancer, early detection is key. Fortunately, you can receive regular breast exams from your women’s health provider. This guide will answer some of the most commonly asked questions about breast exams, so you can prepare for your first appointment.
Understanding Clinical Breast Exams
What is a clinical breast exam?
When you see your OB-GYN provider for a wellness exam, checking the health of your breasts is a priority. During the check, your women’s healthcare provider manually and visually examines the breast. This exam is separate from imaging tests such as mammograms, as it only requires the doctor’s hands to detect any suspicious lumps.
How often do I need a breast exam?
Your women’s health provider will recommend how often you should have a breast exam. Generally, women should have breast exams every year and they should have a mammogram every year starting at age forty. However, your women’s health provider may recommend that you receive breast exams more frequently if you have risk factors, such as past ovarian or breast cancer diagnosis.
What happens during a breast exam?
Before the exam, you will change into a medical gown without your shirt or bra underneath. Your provider will ask you some questions about your current health and medical and family history. They will then feel your breasts on all sides, checking for lumps and unusual skin texture. The provider will also feel under your arms ( axilla). They will also perform a visual check, noting any changes in skin color, nipple shape, or breast symmetry.
What if I find a lump between exams?
During your breast exam, your provider at the women’s health clinic will discuss how to do a breast check at home. You should perform these self-checks about once per month, one week after your cycle when breasts are less tender and cystic. If you find a lump, call your provider right away. Look for changes like skin dimples, swelling, and nipple discharge. Your provider will likely perform a mammogram at the office if you have these symptoms. However, keep in mind that breast lumps or changes do not always mean you have cancer. Your doctor may diagnose an infection or a cyst, so it’s crucial to schedule an appointment right away if you feel a lump.
If you need a clinical breast exam, visit the team at Oswego County OB-GYN PC. Located in Oswego and Fulton, NY, this team has been providing women’s health services since 1960. Their preventative services include breast exams, pelvic exams, and pap smears. They also offer obstetrics, STD diagnosis and treatment, contraception, and fertility testing. Visit them online to view a full list of their services or call (315) 593-8393 to make an appointment.