Breast Examinations: Guidelines and Practices


According to the CDC, Breast cancer remains the most common form of non-skin-related cancer in women and one of the leading causes of women’s cancer deaths.

Moreland OB-GYN wants you to take the appropriate precautions without undue worry. Read on for a breakdown of the current  breast-cancer screening guidelines.


Breast Exam Protocol Recommendations

Breast self-awareness is crucial because often, breast cancer is detected and found by the patient during a self-exam. A patient detecting breast cancer during a self-exam happens in almost one-half of all cases of diagnosed breast cancer in women 50 years and older. Additionally, more than 70% of breast cancer cases are found by women younger than 50 years old while performing a self-exam. 

While performing a self-exam is a good tool for preventative care for women, there are a few different breast exam recommendations for women’s breast health through all stages of life. The following are standard protocols for examining a woman’s breast health:

Clinical Breast Exam 

A woman’s ob-gyn or other healthcare provider may examine the breasts during routine checkups. This process is called a clinical breast exam. Providers may have patients lie down or remain sitting to complete the exam. The breasts will be checked for any changes in size or shape, puckers, dimples, or skin redness. The provider may also feel for any changes in each breast or under each arm.


The primary tool used to screen for breast cancer and other problems is called mammography. The images created through mammography are called a mammogram. These images are created by the x-ray technology of the mammography to view the breasts.

Mammography is done for two reasons:

  1. To screen and check the breasts for breast cancer in women who do not have any signs or symptoms of the disease.

  2. To perform a diagnostic test to check lumps or other symptoms found by the patient, ob-gyn provider or another health care professional.

Self-Check Breast Exam

A breast self-exam uses a combination of physical and visual examinations of the breasts to check for changes to the breasts. A breast self-exam aims to build self-awareness and become familiar with how your breasts typically look and feel. Breast self-awareness will help women identify changes or abnormalities in their breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes. While a breast self-exam is a valuable tool for early detection, it should never replace regular mammograms and clinical breast exams.


What Are the Current Breast Exam Guidelines?

Mammogram Guidelines 2023

  • Ages 40-50: Mammograms are recommended every 1-2 years beginning at age 40; and start screening no later than age 50.
  • Ages 50-75: Annual screening should continue until at least age 75.

Clinical Breast Exam Guidelines 2023

  • Ages 25-39: Clinical breast exam every 1-3 years
  • Ages 40+: Clinical breast exam every year

Self-Check Guidelines 2023 

  • “Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month,” says the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
  • For women still menstruating, a breast self-exam should be performed a few days after menstruation ends.
  • For postmenopausal women, a breast self-exam should be performed on the same day of each month, such as the 1st or 15th day of the month.
  • Know what’s normal for your breasts. Breast self-awareness will help you recognize if there are any changes to your breasts. All changes, even small changes should be reported to your ob-gyn or other health care professional.

Please note these guidelines are for the woman of average breast-cancer risk, meaning:

  • Women who do not have a personal history of breast cancer or a strong family history of breast cancer.
  • Women who do not have a genetic mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Women who have not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30.

Women at high-risk should get breast-cancer screenings earlier and more often, in addition to MRI tests in some cases. Your doctor can tell you what category you fall into and what set of guidelines you should follow.

When to Talk to a Doctor

self-breast-examIf you see something out of the ordinary for you, say something to your OB-GYN doctor.

Breast cancer can manifest with many different symptoms, so awareness of your own body is key. Possible symptoms of breast cancer can include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
  • Skin dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Don’t be shy about getting a doctor involved. The healthcare providers of Moreland OB-GYN welcome all your questions and concerns. We want you to be well and worry-free.

Remember, no set of guidelines is perfect, and no screening is guaranteed. But by staying up-to-date with the latest information and keeping in touch with your OB-GYN doctor, you can have peace of mind that you have done everything you can for a healthy future.

Moreland OB-GYN Associates, S.C. is dedicated to the needs of our patients. At Moreland OB-GYN, we promote overall excellence in women’s health care. Our compassionate providers understand the difficulties that women face in their daily health, and we are here to listen and provide expert care.


For more information about breast self-examinations, request an appointment with Moreland OB-GYN.

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