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Breast Exams

What Are Breast Exams?

Breast exams help doctors check that everything's normal. During a breast exam, a doctor or nurse practitioner will feel a woman's breasts to check any lumps and bumps and see if there are changes since the last exam. Doctors don't usually start doing breast exams until a woman is in her 20s.

Why Do Girls Need Them?

Most teens don't need breast exams. That's because it's rare for girls to have breast problems. Doctors usually just look at a girl's breasts during her yearly gyn checkup to see where she is in her development. But if you have a family history of breast problems, your doctor or nurse might give you a breast exam.

What Happens During a Breast Exam?

During a breast exam, a woman lies on her back. The doctor or nurse will press lightly on different parts of the breasts. This helps check for things like cysts.

What If I Have a Lump in My Breast?

As you grow and develop, you will probably notice small lumps and other changes in your breasts. You might also find your breasts are sensitive and tender around the time of your period. If you feel a lump in your breast, don't panic — breast cancer is extremely rare in teens. For teen girls, the most common type of breast lump is usually just part of normal breast growth.

Lots of girls and women have something called fibrocystic breast changes. This is when small fluid-filled cysts in the breasts change size based on where a girl is in her menstrual cycle. Because these cysts have to do with normal hormone changes, they are typically more obvious and may hurt a bit just before a girl's period. Fibrocystic breast changes are nothing to worry about and don't need any kind of medical treatment.

Infections also can cause breast lumps. So can an injury to the breast — like getting hit in the chest while playing sports.

If you're worried about a lump in your breast, talk to your doctor. Also call your doctor if you have any of these problems:

  • pain in your breast that seems unrelated to your period
  • a red, hot, or swollen breast
  • fluid or bloody discharge from your nipple
  • a lump in your armpit or near your collarbone

Most breast lumps are nothing to worry about, but it always helps to talk to a doctor or nurse about what to expect as your breasts grow. Getting checked out gives you peace of mind.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: 10-06-2017

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