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What To Expect During A Breast Examination?

Dr. Bhavani A

Regular breast examination should be a part of your health routine.

For a lot of women, the thought of a breast examination evokes a sense of fear leading to many avoiding getting their breasts examined altogether. This fear – more often than not – stems from not knowing exactly what to expect during a breast examination. If you’ve ever wondered or hesitated to get one done, read on to know what happens.

Importance of breast examinations 

Clinical breast examinations play a crucial role in the early detection of breast cancer and can help detect a lump in your breast(s) or other anomalies that might require further testing. A clinical breast exam should always be performed by a healthcare professional who is trained in the technique of recognizing the many different types of abnormalities and warning signs.

What happens during a breast examination

Prior to the commencement of your breast exam, the healthcare professional will ask you a series of questions which will cover your health, menstrual and pregnancy history (if any). 

Visual check of the breasts: 

During a breast exam, the healthcare professional will examine the appearance of your breasts for any discrepancies in size, shape, or symmetry. They may ask you to raise your arms over your head, place them on your hips, or let them hang by your sides – to enable them to better identify differences in size or shape between your breasts. 

Manual check of the breasts: 

The healthcare professional will examine the skin covering your breasts for redness, rashes, dimpling, and other signs of abnormality. They will check both breasts, underarms, and collarbone area for any signs of lumps or abnormalities. They may also check your nipples for any discharge. If there is discharge, a sample will be collected for evaluation. 

Assessment of suspicious lumps: 

In the event of a lump being discovered, the healthcare professional will note down its size, shape, and texture. They will also check to see if the lump moves easily. Lumps that appear soft, smooth, round, and movable are likely to be either benign tumors or cysts. A lump that is hard and oddly-shaped and feels firmly attached within the breast could be cancerous. Although benign lumps often feel different from cancerous ones, if a lump is discovered, further examination is warranted. 

What happens during a breast examination

A mammogram is basically an X-ray picture of the breast, and are key in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. A mammogram that’s a routine test to check for changes is known as a screening mammogram. In the case of a lump being discovered, your doctor may order a diagnostic mammogram.

During a mammogram, each breast is fit onto a flat X-ray plate and a compressor pushes them down to flatten the tissue. This helps provide a clearer picture of the breasts. You may be required to hold your breath for each picture and may feel a small amount of pressure or discomfort, which is generally brief.

While routine clinical breast exams are a must for every woman, one shouldn’t undermine the importance of performing breast self-examinations at least once or twice in a month. 

Note: Certain processes may differ depending on the healthcare professional. mfine offers breast screening from the comfort of your home. You don’t have to go to the clinic, a qualified nurse will visit your home and use the radiation-free, painless device for lump screening.

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