Women, Wellness, & Wisdom

Breast Awareness and Early Cancer Detection

Breast Awareness and Early Cancer Detection

Breast Awareness and Early Cancer Detection


By Monique Fox, MD

Don’t  Forget To Do Your Monthly And Yearly Clinical Breast Exam
In Addition to Your Yearly Mammogram


So many of my patients casually mention to me that they do not do their monthly breast exam because they get a yearly mammogram and think that they are covered.  While yearly screening with mammography is the only test shown to decrease mortality, the combination of a yearly screening mammogram , monthly self breast exam and yearly clinical breast exam is the best combination for early detection of cancer.

Breast Cancer Detection



  • Breast screening that included both a clinical exam and a mammogram was 95% effective at detecting breast cancer.
  • Screening using mammography alone was 89% effective at detecting breast cancer.
  • 20% of breast cancers are found by the patient’s physician on clinical exams.
  • 10% of breast cancers are found by the patients on monthly self breast exams .

Clinical Breast Exam



  • A clinical breast exam (CBE) is an exam of your breasts by a health expert such as a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, or physician assistant.
  • For this exam, you undress from the waist up.
  • The examiner will first look at your breasts for changes in size or shape. Then, using the pads of the fingers, she or he will gently feel your breasts for lumps. The area under both arms will also be checked.
  • This is a good time to learn how to do breast self-exam if you don’t already know how.

Breast Awareness and Breast Self-Exam



  • Women should be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a doctor right away. Finding a change does not mean that you have cancer.
  • By being aware of how your own breasts look and feel, you are likely to notice any changes that might take place. You can also choose to use a step-by-step approach to checking your breasts on a set schedule. The best time to do breast self-examination (BSE) is when your breasts are not tender or swollen. If you find any changes, see a doctor right away.
  • Women with breast implants can also do BSE. It may help to have the surgeon help you feel the edges of the implant so that you know where they are. It may be that the implants push out the breast tissue and actually make it easier to examine.

Commonly Accepted Recommendations For Early Breast Cancer Detection



  • Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year.
  • Women with increased risk factors should start regular mammography before the age of 40.
  • Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a clinical breast examination by a health professional every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.
  • Women age 20 or older should perform a breast self-examination (BSE) every month. By doing the exam regularly, you get to know how your breasts normally feel and you can more readily detect any signs or symptoms.

*Remember:  No one knows your body like you do, and you have the best chance of spotting changes early on!

Dr. Monique Fox is a breast radiologist at The Trio Breast Center at Parker Adventist Hospital.  For more information visit parkerhospital.org/mammogram.

Photo Credit: Stock Photo

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