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West J Med. 1996 Apr;164(4):355-8.

Clinical breast examination.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, 94143-0790, USA.


An astute clinician has an appreciation of the wide variation possible in normal breasts, but anticipates that the palpation of the breasts of an individual woman will be determined by basic facts concerning typical relative distribution of gland tissue, breast symmetry, the influence of life history, and possibly previous surgery. If the findings of a CBE are not as anticipated, the clinician must find out why this is so. This is a different frame of reference from asking whether a given lump or area should be considered suspicious for cancer. The basic questions are whether the findings of a CBE are consistent with typical breast structure and anatomy and in the context of the woman's life history. If these questions can be answered in the affirmative, the examination is complete; if not, further evaluation is necessary.

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