A clinical breast exam (CBE) is a physical exam done by a health care provider as part of your regular medical check-up. Your provider should carefully feel your breasts and underarms for any changes or abnormalities (such as a lump). He/she should visually check your breasts while you are sitting up and physically examine your breasts while you are lying down. If a CBE is not offered at your check-up and you would like one, ask your provider if he or she can perform one (or refer you to someone who can).
If you are 20-39 years old, get a CBE at least every three years. If you are 40 or older, have your mammogram close to the time of your CBE. In women ages 40 and older, CBE combined with mammography may find more cancers than mammography alone. When used together at yearly check-ups, fewer breast cancers are missed. However, whereas CBE is an important complement to mammography, it is not a substitute for mammograms in women 40 and older.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that men at higher risk of breast cancer have a clinical breast exam every six to 12 months, starting at age 35. Women who are at a higher risk of breast cancer should speak with their doctor about when and how often they should get screened.