Breast examination refers to the process of assessing the breasts for any changes or abnormalities that may indicate a potential breast health issue, such as breast cancer. There are two primary methods of breast examination: self-breast examination (SBE) and clinical breast examination (CBE) performed by a healthcare professional. Here’s an overview of both methods:
Self-Breast Examination (SBE)
Self-breast examination involves women examining their own breasts regularly to become familiar with their normal breast tissue and detect any changes. Here are the general steps for self-breast examination:
a. Visual Examination: Stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your side and observe your breasts for any changes in size, shape, or contour. Look for any visible skin changes, such as dimpling, puckering, redness, or swelling. Looks for any nipple changes such as inversion of the nipple or eczema/dryness/crusting.
b. Manual Examination: Lie down on your back and place a pillow under your right shoulder. Use the pads of your three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps or abnormalities in your right breast. Use light, medium and firm pressure in a circular motion, covering the entire breast from the collarbone to the bra line and from the armpit to the breastbone. Repeat the process for the left breast by switching hands
c. Nipple Examination: Gently squeeze each nipple to check for any discharge or changes in appearance, such as inversion or scaling.
Perform self-breast examinations regularly, typically once a month, to become familiar with your breasts’ normal appearance and texture. If you notice any changes or abnormalities, promptly consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.
Clinical Breast Examination (CBE)
Clinical breast examination involves a healthcare professional, typically a doctor or nurse, examining your breasts for any abnormalities. Here’s what to expect during a clinical breast examination:
a. Visual Examination: You will be asked to undress from the waist up and the healthcare professional will visually inspect your breasts for any changes in size, shape, or skin appearance.
b. Manual Examination: The healthcare professional will use their hands to feel for any lumps or abnormalities in your breasts and the surrounding areas. They will follow a similar technique as in self-breast examination, using varying levels of pressure to cover the entire breast tissue.
Clinical breast examinations are usually recommended as part of routine check-ups, with the frequency varying based on factors such as age, risk factors and guidelines in your region. It is important to discuss the appropriate frequency with your healthcare provider.
Both self-breast examination and clinical breast examination play a role in early detection and monitoring of breast health. However, it’s important to note that these examinations do not replace other breast cancer screening methods, such as mammograms. Mammograms are specific imaging tests that can help detect breast cancer at an early stage. Your healthcare provider can guide you on the appropriate breast health screening plan based on your age, risk factors and medical history.