Clinical and Self Breast Exams

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. When breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%. (American Cancer Society)

Self breast exams and clinical breast exams are two ways to help detect cancer early!

When should I get a clinical breast exam?

At Valley, a clinical breast exam is performed during routine checkups like your annual exam. Women age 29-39 years should have a clinical breast exam every 1 – 3 years. Women aged 40 and older should have one every year.

What happens during a clinical breast exam?

During the exam, you may be lying down, sitting up or both. You may also be asked to raise your arms over your head. First, the breasts are checked for any changes in size or shape. The provider then looks for puckers, dimples or redness of skin. The provider will also feel for changes in each breast and under each arm. The nipple may be gently squeezed to check for discharge.

What about self-breast exams?

In addition to clinical breast exams, Valley recommends breast self-awareness. This does not require you to examine your breasts once a month or with a precise method, but instead focuses on having a sense of what is normal for your breasts so that you can tell if there are changes. Even very small changes should be discussed with your provider.

Traditional self-breast exams can also be used monthly to monitor changes. The National Breast Cancer Foundation website offers detailed instructions on how to perform self-breast exams as well as additional information on breast cancer.