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info@southwestcare.org

Breast Exams

Why are Breast Exams Important?

Breast exams are an important component of women’s health. Every woman’s breast texture is different, so understanding your own body can help you identify changes that might be associated with breast cancer. Yearly breast exams in combination with self-exams and mammograms greatly improve the chances of detecting breast cancer in early, more treatable stages.

To ensure that you get a quality breast exam or meet your other women’s health needs, please contact us at 505.988.8869.

When Should I Get a Breast Exam?

Southwest Care Center recommends that women in their 20s and 30s with no family history of breast cancer start getting breast exams every 1 to 3 years, then once a year after age 40. That’s why at Southwest Care Center, breast exams are a component of yearly physicals and well-woman exams.

Make sure to tell your Southwest Care Center provider if you’ve had breast or ovarian cancer or if you have a family history of either type of cancer so they can make better recommendations regarding the frequency and types of screenings that would be best for you.

What to Expect at Your SCC Visit for a Breast Exam

A visit for a breast exam is very common, and we do them every day. That being said, we know a visit to the doctor can come with some anxiety or at least some questions about what to expect during these visits. We want all patients to be as comfortable as possible while they are a guest at one of our clinics.

When you come to a Southwest Care Center clinic you will first be asked to fill out some paperwork. This can be time consuming but is necessary for us to have the information we need to best serve you. We are very successful at keeping our wait times short and rank in the top 95% of medical clinics on this measure. Once it is time for your visit, a nurse or medical assistant will call you back to one of our exam rooms. The nurse or medical assistant will ask you questions, record information, and check your vitals, then your doctor will come in and perform the exam.

How Is a Breast Exam Done?

Visual Check – During a breast exam, your Southwest Care Center physician will first check the appearance of your breasts. They may ask you to raise your arms above your head, leave them at your sides, or place your hands on your hips. These various positions allow the Southwest Care Center physician to look for any differences in size or shape between your breasts. Your physician will examine the skin and check for any irritation, dimpling, or other abnormal conditions. They may also lightly squeeze the nipples to check whether there is any discharge.

Manual Check – Using the pads of the fingers, your physician will feel your entire breast, underarm and collarbone area for any lumps or irregularities. Your physician will also check the lymph nodes near your breasts to see if they are enlarged.

Every woman is unique, and some women’s breast tissue may appear to have bumps or ridges (known as fibrocystic breasts) which are harmless. Dense or lumpy tissue is also considered mostly harmless (it is not cancer related), but it’s something your Southwest Care Center physician will want to note for the future.

What If Something Is Discovered?

Should a lump be discovered, your Southwest Care Center provider will make recommendations for the best next steps to evaluate the abnormal area.

Should I Do Breast Self-Exams?

Absolutely! Breast self-exams are convenient, no-cost and can be performed on a regular basis and at any age. We recommend that all women perform breast self-exams at least once a month as part of their overall breast cancer screening strategy.

According to research by Johns Hopkins Medical Center, approximately 40% of breast cancers are initially detected by women who feel a lump.

While mammograms can detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you familiarize yourself with how your breasts should look and feel so you can alert your Southwest Care Center physician if there are any changes.

The physicians and caregivers at Southwest Care Center are passionate about keeping our patients and our community as healthy and happy as possible, so recommending and providing preventive care is one of our top priorities.

What if I find a Lump in My Breast?

If you discover a lump or any other change in your breast, contact your Southwest Care Center provider to schedule an appointment. As we said before, a lump doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but it’s best to get it examined as soon as you suspect it. Your provider will perform a breast exam, discuss your concerns and risks, and make recommendations for the next best steps to evaluate the abnormal area.

Mammograms

At Southwest Care Center, we recommend women at average risk for breast cancer have regular mammograms.

There are many different guidelines regarding recommendations for when to begin mammogram screening and the frequency they should be performed. You and your provider will work together to determine what is right for you based on your risks and concerns.

While Southwest Care Center does not offer mammograms at our locations, our women’s healthcare team will take the time to help you find the screening center that is most convenient for you.

If you believe like we do, that medicine must be personalized, based on trust, affordable and available when you need it, please call and make an appointment at 505.988.8869.