Clinical Breast Exam

During a clinical breast exam, you can expect your physician to carefully examine your breasts for any lumps or irregularities. You may be asked to raise your arms over your head, let them hang by your sides, or press your hands against your hips.

Using the pads of the fingers to feel for lumps, your doctor checks your entire breast, underarm, and collarbone area, one side at a time. The lymph nodes near the breast are examined to see if they are enlarged.

Your doctor looks for differences in size or shape between your breasts. Your doctor will also check the skin of your breasts for a rash, dimpling, or other abnormal signs. Your nipples may be squeezed to check for fluid.

Identifying Irregularities

If you have a lump, your doctor will feel its size, shape, and texture, and see if the lump moves easily. A lump is generally the size of a pea before anyone can feel it.

Benign lumps often feel different from cancerous ones. Lumps that are soft, smooth, round, and movable are likely to be benign. A hard, oddly shaped lump that feels firmly attached within the breast is more likely to be cancer, but further tests are needed to make an accurate diagnosis.

It’s important for women to be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a doctor right away. Our physicians can also assist you in learning to perform monthly self breast exams for regular screening.