A clinical breast exam (CBE) is a physical exam of the breasts and the underarm area by a trained healthcare professional.
If you tell your doctor about a lump or change in your breasts, you may have a CBE. Your doctor or another trained healthcare professional may also do it as part of your regular physical exam.
Men who find a lump or a change in their breasts should also have a CBE.
You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for a CBE. The same CBE technique is used for women with breast implants. You will remove your clothing from the waist up. A sheet or gown covers you while you’re on the examination table.
First the healthcare professional looks at the breasts. This should be done with you sitting, and then when you are lying down. The healthcare professional looks for:
Next the healthcare professional feels, or palpates, the breasts and the nipples. This is done with you lying down, which flattens the breast tissue over the chest wall. Breast tissue covers a large area. It goes from the middle of the chest into the armpit and up toward the collarbone and deep inside to the muscles of the chest wall. The healthcare professional will examine the entire area and will need to use some pressure to get at the deeper tissue.
The healthcare professional uses firm pressure with their fingers to feel for:
The healthcare professional will also feel lymph nodeslymph nodesA small, bean-shaped mass of lymphatic tissue along lymph vessels (tubes through which lymph fluid travels in the body). Lymph nodes store lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell that fights germs, foreign substances or cancer cells) and filters bacteria and foreign substances (including cancer cell in the underarm area (called the axilla) and in the area above and below the collarbone for any lumps or hardening.
The healthcare professional will talk to you about anything that is found and let you know if you need to have more tests.