For most women, the results of a clinical breast exam (CBE) will be good news. The exam will find no signs of breast cancer.
If your exam does find something abnormal, you will need follow-up tests to check whether or not the finding is breast cancer.
Most abnormal findings are not breast cancer. Sometimes follow-up tests show:
However, it’s important to get follow-up without delay. If breast cancer is found, it’s best to be diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible stage.
If your CBE finds something abnormal, the follow-up tests done will depend on the type of finding and your age.
Follow-up most often begins with the least invasive tests, such as a follow-up mammogram (may be called a diagnostic mammogram) or a breast ultrasound.
If needed, you will have more invasive tests, such as a biopsy.
If you need follow-up tests, a patient navigator at your medical center may help you coordinate your care.
The most common abnormal finding from a CBE is a lump (also called a palpable mass because it can be felt).
Your health care provider will check whether the lump is fluid-filled or solid.
If it's fluid-filled, it's most likely a cyst. Cysts are a benign breast condition and often don't need treatment.
If the breast lump is solid, it's more likely to be breast cancer and often needs more testing.
In women under 30, most breast lumps are benign.
Follow-up usually begins with a breast ultrasound and possibly a follow-up mammogram (may be called a diagnostic mammogram).
For some women, however, the first step may be observation. This involves re-checking the lump after 1-2 menstrual periods to see if it goes away (often the case).
If you're not comfortable waiting, talk with your health care provider or get a second opinion.
Some women will need a biopsy to confirm whether or not the lump is breast cancer.
Learn more about biopsies and breast cancer diagnosis.
For women 30 and older, follow-up on a breast lump usually begins with a follow-up mammogram (may be called a diagnostic mammogram) and a breast ultrasound.
Some women will need a biopsy to check whether or not the lump is breast cancer.
Other abnormal findings during a CBE may include (see pictures):
As with a lump, these findings need proper follow-up to be sure they aren't breast cancer.
Susan G. Komen®’s Breast Care Helpline:1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)
Calls to our Breast Care Helpline are answered by a trained and caring staff member Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET and from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT. Our helpline provides free, professional support services to anyone with breast cancer questions or concerns, including people diagnosed with breast cancer and their families.
You can also email the helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facts for Life: Breast Cancer Screening & Follow-up Tests
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)