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Clinical Breast Exams
Clinical breast exams are an essential and sometimes lifesaving step in detecting breast cancer in women. This simple and routine procedure is administered during an annual physical exam or gynecological appointment. A clinical breast exam can be instrumental in detecting calcified lumps or tumors in the breast which may have gone unnoticed by a regular mammogram.
Breast Exam Procedure
In a clinical breast exam, your doctor will lightly apply pressure to the outside, middle and the nipple area of your breast, as well as your underarm area, in search of any lumps or abnormalities in the look or feel of your breasts. In addition to examining the breast for a palpable mass, your doctor will also look for any other irregularities such as nipple discharge, skin discoloration, or thickening of the skin within the breast that may be cause for concern.
If an abnormality is detected during the clinical breast exam, there are several steps that your doctor may choose to take. Most commonly, the next step of screening will be a diagnostic mammogram and then, if needed, an ultrasound or biopsy of the breast tissue.
In most cases when abnormalities are detected during clinical breast exams, the lump or abnormality is not cancer but something much less serious such as benign breast disease or a fluid-filled cyst. In women under thirty, it is likely that the doctor will only perform an ultrasound or schedule a series of routine follow-up visits. This is because in most cases of women under thirty, the lump is benign and will most likely be gone after one or two menstrual cycles. It is important at any age, however, to consult with your doctor regarding the appropriate follow-up procedures.
The use of clinical breast exams to detect the early signs of breast cancer is essential in diminishing the rates of advanced stage breast cancer and breast cancer related fatalities. The five-year survival rate of people with an early diagnosis of breast cancer is 96 percent. It is recommended that women begin requesting clinical breast exams at their annual physical exam or gynecological appointment starting at age 20 and do so every three years thereafter. At the onset of 40, women should begin having clinical breast exams annually.
The clinical breast exam must be supplemented by a routine mammogram in order to perform a thorough breast cancer-screening for early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms are still the most effective means of detecting signs of breast cancer an average of 1.7 years before the onset of the disease. With the combination of a regular clinical breast exams and mammograms, the occurrence of missed signs of cancer is less than five percent.
Contact A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Near You
Many doctors still recommend clinical breast exams because they want to do everything possible to detect breast cancer in their patients. If you are interested in learning more about clinical breast exams, you may wish to speak with your doctor further about this breast cancer screening tool. If your breast exam determined an abnormality that has been treated or removed, please contact us to speak with a surgeon about your breast recontruction options.