Clinical Breast Cancer Check Up
Photo Credit: Pexels

Going for your first clinical breast cancer check-up is such an important way to find out if there are any red flags you should be informed of (even if you don’t think anything is wrong). If you’ve never been before, here’s what this kind of check-up is all about!


South Africa (20 February 2024) — Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in October, this by no means indicates that you should wait until then to go for a regular check-up! Nipping concerns in the bud is hugely helpful when it comes to most matters of our health, but when it comes to matters of our boobs, it can sometimes be hard to tell when there’s a red flag or just our bodies doing their thing.

Let’s get a few stressors out of the way. Yes, the mere thought of going for a clinical breast cancer check-up is daunting. I kept thinking to myself ‘Am I inviting news I don’t want to hear?’ writes GTG’s Ashleigh. Yes, it is scary being in a pretty vulnerable position where your breasts are at the mercy of a doctor’s hands (but hey, if you’re no stranger to the gynie or even a bikini wax, you’re already way prepared). Despite the resistant feelings you might experience beforehand, I can safely say that by far, what’s more daunting and scary is the not knowing if something is wrong.

What is a Clinical Breast Cancer Check Up?

Also referred to as a clinical breast cancer screening, this is when your doctor uses their gloved hands to investigate your breast health. No mammograms at this point; they are simply checking for any red flags that might signal breast cancer. While you can and should also do this kind of check up at home, going for a regular professional-approved check up (at least once a year) is worth setting time aside for.

What to Expect

You need to share:

  • The breast cancer history in your family
  • The pill you are taking (if taking one)
  • Any abnormalities that have worried you (suspicious lumps, changes in your breast appearance or even armpit concerns)
  • Other medical conditions/medication you are on
  • Your lifestyle (if you’re a smoker or drink regularly, it’s time to lay your cards on the table)

The doctor is going to look for:

  • Any concerning lumps in your breast tissue. Because breast tissue can itself feel quite lumpy, it can be confusing for you to feel a lump yourself. As my doctor explained to me, worrying lumps are hard and feel almost the size of a pea
  • Lumps in your armpit region. Auxiliary lumps spotted in the armpits can be a signal of breast cancer, so when you’re doing self-exams, always make sure to check there too!
  • Nipple and areola: shape, unusual discharge and any other visible indicators on the skin (like dimpling or swelling)

Good to know:

  • As my doctor explained, when it comes to breast cancer, oftentimes concerning symptoms lie under the skin. Breasts can get pimples and even cysts just like other part of the body, so if you spot these, don’t automatically assume the worst—just get it checked out!

Things to Ask

Considering your doctor knows your health history, make sure to ask the following questions:

  • The cancer-related risks of any birth control you are on
  • Lifestyle factors that could be changed to decrease cancer-chances
  • Dietary factors that could be changed to decrease cancer-chances
  • If there is anything about your menstrual cycle that you need to keep your eye on

When do I need to go for a mammogram?

  • Regular mammograms are typically recommended for women older than 40 if your doctor has not recommended them after a check-up. Factors like cancer and family history can shift the age you can start going for your regulars, so ask the doctor!
  • For women younger, self-exams and clinical breast cancer check ups are a great way to keep yourself in the loop. But again, your personal health history and risk factors play a big role, so ask the doctor if your check ups need to be more regular.

Whether you think you have nothing to worry about or think you’ve spotted a red flag, the more you know the better your chances of taking care of yourself no matter the outcome!

Sources: GTG
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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