Breast Cancer Awareness Month: The Clinical Breast Exam

(Originally Posted on Oct 23, 2014)

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month the doctors at Palm Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology thought it might be helpful for our patients to learn about the importance of a clinical breast exam, one of the tools in our breast cancer detection arsenal.

What is a Clinical Breast Exam?

A clinical breast exam (often abbreviated CBE) is a specialized exam performed by your healthcare provider or OB GYN. In addition to breast self-exam, it is one of the techniques used to detect cancer in women in their 20s and 30s. For women over 40, the clinical breast exam is used in conjunction with regular self-exams and mammograms.

How is a Clinical Breast Exam Performed?

You will need to be undressed from the waist up. Your doctor will first do an overall assessment of both breasts. They will look at the shape, skin texture and relative size of each breast and checking for any abnormalities as well as comparing the shape of your breasts with one another.

Sometimes abnormalities can present such as dimpling and puckering of the skin on the breast, so the provider will also be assessing for these signs.

The best way to detect abnormalities is for your doctor to feel your breasts with pads of their fingers. Some providers do this in a circular pattern, others in a strip pattern. Nonetheless, they are looking for masses or areas of the breast that feel different from the surrounding tissue.

Your gynecologist will also palpate your axilla (known as the armpit in lay person’s terms) to assess for any abnormalities such as lumps or nodules.

An assessment will also be done to detect any discharge from the nipples or for retraction (when the nipple has the appearance of being pulled into the breast). He or she will ask about any areas of pain you might have in your breasts.

Breast Self-Exam as Part of Your Monthly Routine

If you don’t know how to do a breast self-exam, this is a good time to ask for a tutorial or even just a refresher course. Breast health is a partnership between providers and patients, so it’s important to communicate any differences you have noticed in the look or feel of your own breasts.

Find an OB GYN in Palm Beach County

Are you due or overdue for a clinical breast exam? If you’re in the Palm Beach County area, please call Palm Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology at (561) 434-0111 and schedule your appointment.

Our practice has three convenient locations including Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Even if you’re busy, don’t let that stop you from reaching out; we have evening hours in both our Lake Worth and West Palm Beach offices.


1. Susan G. Komen Factsheet on Breast Cancer Prevention

2. Planned Parenthood’s Guide to Clinical Breast Exam

Dr. Sam Lederman

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