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Living Well

New Clinical Breast Exam Guidelines

Last updated: Jul 01, 2011


The Summit Medical Group Breast Care Center of Excellence  encourages its female patients age 20 years or more to have a clinical breast examination (CBE). Patients age 40 years and older should have a CBE when they have a mammogram. If you are age 20 to 40 and you're not having annual mammograms, you should have your CBE each year during your gynecology checkup.

"Although mammograms are still the best way to detect breast cancer," says Summit Medical Group breast surgeon John D. Cunningham, MD, "a CBE can detect small, invasive breast cancers that might not be visible in a mammogram. As a result, the CBE is an important part of your comprehensive breast health care." Dr. Cunningham adds, "The exam should be performed in conjunction with annual mammograms and monthly breast self-exams to thoroughly evaluate your breast tissue."  

To ensure that you receive high quality, evidenced-based breast health care, your Summit Medical Group physician will provide a screening mammogram prescription after you have had a clinical breast exam within the last 3 to 6 months.

Who should have a CBE? 

  • Women between the ages of 20 years and 30 years should have a CBE as part of their annual gynecology checkup
  • Women age 40 years or more should have a CBE every year

What happens during a CBE?
During a CBE, your doctor or nurse will carefully feel the tissue in and around your breasts with his or her hands (a technique known as palpation) to check for lumps and other changes. He or she also will examine the tissue under your arms. 

If there are any changes in your breast or surrounding tissue, your doctor or nurse will discuss the changes with you and recommend what to do next. The discussion will include questions about your medical history and risk factors for breast cancer.

What happens if you have changes in your breast tissue?
If your doctor discovers changes in your breast tissue during your clinical breast examination, he or she is likely to prescribe additional tests such as a:

  • Mammogram
  • Breast ultrasound

Your doctor also might refer you to a breast specialist. In some cases, the breast specialist might recommend a breast biopsy.

"Remember that the vast majority of breast lumps are not cancerous," Dr. Cunningham emphasizes. "Many changes in breast tissue occur as a result of the menstrual cycle and other hormonal changes. Still," he says, "it's important to have your breasts checked regularly in accordance with our guidelines to protect your breast and overall health." "

Our Breast Health Nurse Navigators Can Ease Your Journey
Our certified Breast Health Nurse Navigators understand that any changes in your breast tissue are likely to concern you. For this reason, they will ensure that you receive the breast care services and information you need, including:

  • Answering your questions about additional tests and procedures
  • Educating you about your condition 
  • Providing information about treatment
  • Coordinating your appointments
  • Helping you communicate with all your providers
  • Telling you what you can expect

Focused on your emotional and physical comfort as well as your health and well-being, our Breast Health Nurse Navigators are eager to ensure that your health care experience is satisfying. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment today,
please call your Summit Medical Group health care provider.

You also may call the Summit Medical Group Breast Care Center of Excellence
at 908-277-8770. 

Please click here to learn about our Breast Care Groups.