Clinical Breast Examination
How It Is Done continued...
professional will feel (palpate) each breast for any unusual or painful areas
or for a dominant lump. A dominant lump in the breast is any lump that is new,
larger, harder, or different in any other way from other lumps or the rest of
the breast tissue.
Your health professional will gently press on
the breast tissue from about
1 in. (2.5 cm) below the breast
up to the collarbone. He or she also will examine your armpit (axillary area)
and your neck for swollen glands (lymph nodes).
Your health professional will likely press gently on your nipple to check for
After the examination, your health professional
may teach you how to examine your own breasts (breast self-examination) and help you practice doing it. Regular breast
self-examination has not been shown to be helpful for finding early breast
How It Feels
A clinical breast examination normally
does not cause any discomfort unless your breasts are tender.
There are no risks in having a clinical breast
A clinical breast examination (CBE) is a
physical examination of the breast done by a health professional. Findings of a
clinical breast examination may include the following.
Clinical breast examination
The nipples, breast tissue, and areas around the breast
look normal and are normal in size and shape. One breast may be slightly larger
than the other.
A small area of firm tissue may be present in the lower
curve of the breast below the nipple.
Tenderness or lumpiness that occurs in both breasts is
normal for many women. Many women have the same lumpiness or thickening in both
breasts during the menstrual cycle.
A clear or milky discharge (galactorrhea) may be present
when the nipple is squeezed. This may be caused by nursing, breast stimulation,
hormones, or some other normal cause.
One breast may have more glandular tissue (lumps) than the
other one, especially in the upper outer quadrant of the breast.
A firm lump or area of thickening may be present in one of
Changes in the color or feel of your breast or nipple may
be present. This can include wrinkling, dimpling, thickening, or puckering or
an area that feels grainy, stringy, or thickened.
A nipple may sink into the breast. A red, scaly rash or
sore may be found on the nipple.
Redness or warmth over a painful lump or over an entire
breast may be present. This may be caused by an infection (abscess or
mastitis) or cancer.
A bloody or milky discharge (galactorrhea) may occur
without stimulation (spontaneous).
If a breast problem is found, the next step depends on the
- Cyclic breast pain,
fibrocystic changes, or
cysts may just be rechecked to see if they change or
go away on their own. Cysts may also be checked by
ultrasound or drained with a needle (aspirated) to
make sure they are cysts and to help relieve pain.
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound may be
needed if a lump is found. Breast tissue may be taken out with a needle (needle
aspiration or core biopsy) or through a small cut (biopsy) to be
looked at under the microscope.
- Nipple discharge, especially if it
is spontaneous or bloody, may be looked at under a microscope for unusual