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Breast Exam

Breast Exam

Medical breast exams are a simple but crucial physical exam done by a healthcare professional to aid in the early detection of breast cancer or other complications. This is a common procedure often done as part of a regular annual checkup, although many women make appointments for this exam specifically.

While early cancer detection is a major priority in breast screening procedures, it's not the only priority. These exams promote overall breast health and address benign breast lumps, nipple discharge, and general breast pain

What Is a Medical Breast Exam? 

Medical Breast Exam

A medical breast exam will involve your provider examining the shape, size and texture of your breasts, while using the tips of their fingers to check for anything that feels abnormal. Along with checking your breasts, they will also check the breast tissue that extends into your armpits. Our providers have been trained to feel for problems and can make effective and informed conclusions about your breast health. A medical breast exam, or clinical breast exam, should be done by a healthcare professional, such as a gynecologist.

Familiarity with your own breasts is important, and you should talk to your doctor about any new changes concerning your breasts. Studies have shown that self-exams are not always effective and many women may miss abnormalities. The recent guidelines for breast self-exams have also changed. You should discuss the guidelines and recommendations with your provider and determine an individualized plan for how you will monitor for any breast changes based on your personal and family history. We have written a blog covering the new breast self-examination guidelines and practices here.

Why You Need A Medical Breast Exam

According to the CDC, Breast cancer remains the most common form of non-skin-related cancer in women. In 2018, the CDC reported that the rate of new cancer cases was 135.9 per 100,000 women in Wisconsin. The earlier lumps or other problems are detected, the easier they will be to treat. An exam that only takes a few minutes has the potential to save lives.

There are less severe but still important reasons to schedule a medical breast exam, such as mastitis, change in breast tissue, and general preventive care.

At Your Annual OB-GYN Check Up

A breast exam during your annual checkup will put you ahead of many health risks, big or small. By scheduling an annual OB-GYN check up you can get a full assessment of your physical health status, including a breast screening and a pelvic exam. 

Learn more about simple steps you can take towards a healthy future by reviewing our women’s preventive health page.

If You Notice Changes in Nipple or Breast Tissue

You should schedule a medical breast exam right away if you experience any of the following changes in nipple or breast tissue:

  • Any lumps or firm feelings. These can appear in your breast, near your breast, or under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of either or both breasts
  • Nipple discharge, any fluid that is not breast milk
  • A new finding of an inverted nipple, or nipple facing inward into the breast
  • Skin changes
    • Itching
    • Discoloring
    • Redness
    • Scaling
    • Puckers
    • Dimples

Don’t be shy about reaching out to your OB-GYN if you have questions or concerns about your breasts, your health is too important.

If You Suffer from Mastitis

Mastitis is most common in women who are breastfeeding but has been known to affect men and women who are not breastfeeding. 

Mammograms and Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer forms in the cells of the breast, and according to the National Cancer Institute, 12.3% of women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. That may not sound like a huge percentage, but that’s still a 1 in 8 chance.

If during your medical breast exam your Moreland provider finds symptoms that may indicate an issue or if you qualify for a mammogram or breast ultrasound, they can order these tests to ensure you get the care you need for optimal breast health. A mammogram uses a low-energy X-ray to examine your breast. This breast screening can detect any breast abnormalities. While Moreland does not perform mammograms, we can place the order for you. We will review the results with you at your next appointment. 

Types of Mammograms

Types of mammograms include:Mammogram exam

  • Conventional mammography. A traditional mammogram using a low-dose X-ray system.
  • Digital mammography. Also known as full-field digital mammography, in place of an X-ray film a digital chip records images of the breast.
  • 3D mammography. The combination of multiple breast X-rays are used to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast.

Common symptoms of breast cancer 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

When Should You Get a Breast Exam or Mammogram?

For a woman without a personal history of breast cancer or a family history of breast cancer, the general guidelines for when to get a breast exam or mammogram are as follows: 

  • Ages 25-39: Recommend a breast exam every 1 to 3 years.
  • Ages 40-44: Recommend a breast exam every year. Discuss with your provider to establish your mammogram schedule. 
  • Ages 45-54: Recommend a mammogram every year.
  • Ages 55-plus: Recommend a mammogram every two years. Discuss with your provider if mammograms should be scheduled more frequently. 

Women who are at higher risk should be tested more often and should discuss with their doctor the specific clinical breast exam guidelines to follow.

Trust Your Moreland OB-GYN For All Of Your Breast Health Needs

The dedicated healthcare providers at Moreland OB-GYN are here to listen and to provide expert care to women of all ages. We understand the difficulties of daily health and want to be sure you are well-educated about your own breast health and wellness needs.

While no set of guidelines is perfect, by keeping an open line of communication with your OB-GYN you can feel confident knowing that your unique concerns and medical needs are being met.

If you have questions or would like to schedule a breast exam request an appointment with Moreland OB-GYN, today.