Breast exams are physical and visual inspections of the breasts. They are an important part of an yearly checkup because breast exams can help identify any unusual lumps or suspicious growths around the breasts. In addition, a doctor can teach a patient how to perform these exams at home every month in order to recognize any changes on their own breasts. Breast exams can be a very useful tool for the early diagnosis of breast cancer.
During a breast exam, a doctor may ask the patient place their arm in several positions to view and examine the breast from various angles. For the physical portion of the exam, the doctor will rotate his or her fingers around the entire breast, applying changing levels of pressure to feel areas near the surface as well as deeper within the breast. Both breasts will be examined.
Women are encouraged to do self-breast examinations every month, about five days after their period begins. This is the time that the breast are the least tender and lumpy. If patients feel anything different or suspicious during the breast exam, they should consult their doctor immediately. In some cases, patients may be sent for a mammogram to further examine their breast.