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Clinical Breast Examination

A clinical breast examination (CBE) is a physical examination of the breasts by a doctor or nurse practitioner. A trained health care provider may detect changes in the breast that are difficult to detect by self-examination.

Evidence About CBE

There is no direct scientific evidence that CBE reduces breast cancer death rates – no research studies have examined CBE alone without mammographyMammogram (also called mammography):
A low-dose X-ray of the breast. It is used to take images of the breasts and is an important screening tool for the earlier detection of breast cancer.
. CBE may be complementary to screeningScreening:
The search for diseases such as breast cancer in people without symptoms. Mammography is an important tool for breast cancer screening and earlier detection.
mammography – it does not replace it. Studies of CBE in the context of an organized breast cancer screening program show that CBE by a trained health care provider, in addition to mammography, makes a slight contribution to the breast cancer detection rate, but at the cost of a sharp increase in false positiveFalse positive:
Some test results show signs of cancer that are ruled out when further testing is done. This is referred to as a “false positive” result. About one in ten women may be called back for more testing after their mammogram. Most women who require additional testing will not have breast cancer.
rates. For this reason, some organized breast cancer screening programs are no longer offering CBE as a part of their service.

Deciding if CBE is Right for You

To make an informed decision about what is right for you, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation encourages you to learn about the benefits and limitations of CBE. A regular check-up with a health care provider can be a good opportunity for you to discuss your breast health, including any unusual breast changes, your risk for breast cancer, and screening for the earlier detection of breast cancer.  

Breast health discussion points for you and your health care provider

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation also encourages women and men to be breast aware: know how your breasts normally look and feel, know what changes to look for, and discuss any unusual breast changes with a health care provider.


Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region. (2010). Earlier Detection and Diagnosis of Breast Cancer: A Report from It’s About Time! A Consensus Conference.