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A clinical breast exam is another screening tool. During a clinical breast exam, your healthcare provider checks your breasts. You may be asked to raise your arms over your head, let them hang by your sides, or press your hands against your hips.
Your healthcare provider looks for differences in size or shape between your breasts. The skin of your breasts is checked for a rash, dimpling, or other abnormal signs. Your nipples may be squeezed to check for fluid.
Using the pads of the fingers to feel for lumps, your healthcare provider checks your entire breast, underarm, and collarbone area. A lump is generally the size of a pea before anyone can feel it. The exam is done on one side, then the other. Your healthcare provider checks the lymph nodes near the breast to see if they are enlarged.
A thorough clinical breast exam may take about 10 minutes.
The Self-Exam and Screening for Breast CancerAs part of breast cancer screening, you should perform monthly breast self-exams to check for any changes in your breasts. It is important to remember that changes can occur because of aging, your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, or taking birth control pills or other hormones. It is normal for breasts to feel a little lumpy and uneven. Also, it is common for your breasts to be swollen and tender right before or during your menstrual period.
You should contact your healthcare provider if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts.
Self-exams cannot replace regular screening mammograms and clinical breast exams as screening tools. Studies have not shown that breast self-exams alone reduce the number of deaths from the disease.