Breast Exams

Institutes & Services > Women's Services

Guidelines for Clinical Breast Exams (CBEs)

  • Women in their 20s and 30s: At least every 3 years, get a CBE as part of a regular health exam by your provider.
  • After age 40: Get a CBE once a year.

At your CBE, speak with your doctor or nurse about any changes you may have noted in your breasts, along with any family history of breast issues.

Consider scheduling your CBE just before your mammogram. Ask your provider how to do a breast self-exam – and discuss the benefits and limitations.

Breast Self-Exams (BSEs)

Some women feel comfortable doing a breast self-exam every month, usually after their period. Ask your provider to show you how best to perform a BSE.

But don’t stress about doing a BSE – it’s simply one way to understand how your breasts look and feel, so that you can see any changes.

Tell your health care provider as soon as possible about any change or new symptom you’ve noticed in your breasts. Remember, most of the time such changes are NOT cancer.

Mammograms: Vital Tools

  • Women 40 and older: Get a screening mammogram once a year.
  • If you’ve had an abnormal mammogram or your risk for breast cancer is high: You may need earlier screening or added tests.

Research supports the benefits of mammograms for women in their 40s. Still, mammograms can miss some cancers, just as they can lead to further testing (such as a biopsy) when cancer is not present. Still, mammograms are very effective ways to decrease suffering and death from breast cancer.

At what age should women discontinue mammograms?

Age by itself shouldn’t be the determining factor. Women in good health who are candidates for treatment should continue to be screened with mammograms.

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