The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women 20 to 39 get a clinical breast exam (CBE) once every three years during their annual well-woman visit. Your primary doctor may do one at every yearly check-up. When you are 40 and older, the ACS recommends that you get a CBE annually. Having a clinical breast exam is a great way to keep an eye on your breast health, and many doctors prefer to do one before referring you for a screening mammogram.
Your obstetrician/gynecologist, primary care physician, or nurse practitioner can do your CBE for you. If you are seeing an oncologist, the doctor or nurse can perform your clinical breast exam anytime it is needed. Although there are some standards for clinical breast exams procedures, some health professionals have their own variations on the exam.
Knowing what to expect during your clinical breast exam can help you prepare. Your CBE appointment is a good time to ask questions about any breast health concerns that you have. If you need to learn how to do your monthly breast self-exam, ask for some coaching during this visit.
You might like to bring along a record of your menstrual cycle, a list of medications you regularly take, and any other health records that may affect your breast health. Dress comfortably, in clothing that can be removed from the waist up. Try wearing a sports bra or other soft bra that won't put pressure on your breasts, in case you feel a bit tender after the exam.
Let's take a look at some of the steps of a clinical breast exam.