Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

Clinical Breast Examination

How It Is Done continued...

Your health professional will feel (palpate) each breast for any unusual or painful areas or for a dominant lump. A dominant lump in the breast is any lump that is new, larger, harder, or different in any other way from other lumps or the rest of the breast tissue.

Your health professional will gently press on the breast tissue from about 1 in. (2.5 cm) below the breast up to the collarbone. He or she also will examine your armpit (axillary area) and your neck for swollen glands (lymph nodes). Your health professional will likely press gently on your nipple to check for any discharge.

After the examination, your health professional may teach you how to examine your own breasts (breast self-examination) and help you practice doing it.

How It Feels

A clinical breast examination normally does not cause any discomfort unless your breasts are tender.

Risks

There are no risks in having a clinical breast examination.

Results

A clinical breast examination (CBE) is a physical examination of the breast done by a health professional. Findings of a clinical breast examination may include the following.

Clinical breast examination
Normal:

The nipples, breast tissue, and areas around the breast look normal and are normal in size and shape. One breast may be slightly larger than the other.

A small area of firm tissue may be present in the lower curve of the breast below the nipple.

Tenderness or lumpiness that occurs in both breasts is normal for many women. Many women have the same lumpiness or thickening in both breasts during the menstrual cycle.

A clear or milky discharge (galactorrhea) may be present when the nipple is squeezed. This may be caused by nursing, breast stimulation, hormones, or some other normal cause.

One breast may have more glandular tissue (lumps) than the other one, especially in the upper outer quadrant of the breast.

Abnormal:

A firm lump or area of thickening may be present in one of your breasts.

Changes in the color or feel of your breast or nipple may be present. This can include wrinkling, dimpling, thickening, or puckering or an area that feels grainy, stringy, or thickened.

A nipple may sink into the breast. A red, scaly rash or sore may be found on the nipple.

Redness or warmth over a painful lump or over an entire breast may be present. This may be caused by an infection (abscess or mastitis) or cancer.

A bloody or milky discharge (galactorrhea) may occur without stimulation (spontaneous nipple discharge).

If a breast problem is found, the next step depends on the problem.

  • Cyclic breast pain, fibrocystic changes, or cysts may just be rechecked to see if they change or go away on their own. Cysts may also be checked by ultrasound or drained with a needle (aspirated) to make sure they are cysts and to help relieve pain.
  • A mammogram, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound may be needed if a lump is found. Breast tissue may be taken out with a needle (needle aspiration or core biopsy) or through a small cut (biopsy) to be looked at under the microscope.
  • Nipple discharge, especially if it is spontaneous or bloody, may be looked at under a microscope for unusual cells.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
 
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
insomnia
Is it menopause or something else?
 
Couple with troubles
Article
Bone density illustration
VIDEO
 
Young woman being vaccinated
Slideshow
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow
 
Blood pressure check
Slideshow
mother and daughter talking
Evaluator
 
intimate couple
Article
puppy eating
Slideshow