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What is a breast exam?

A breast exam is when a girl’s breasts are checked for any changes in the appearance or feel of the breasts. Gynecologists—doctors who specialize in the care of women’s and girls’ reproductive health— and other health care providers perform breast exams during an appointment for overall sexual health. Girls should also get in the habit of performing their own breast self-exam each month (a week after each period is a good time), just to get familiar with their own breasts so that they will notice if something changes or feels different.

When a breast exam is performed by your health care provider, you will go into an examination room, undress and put on a paper or cloth gown. A health care provider will come into the room for the exam. If you would prefer a clinician of a particular sex, you can request that ahead of time.

Your health care provider will listen to your heart and lungs and may ask you to lie on your back for a breast exam. Some health care providers will teach you how to examine your own breasts and feel for any unusual lumps or swellings that might need medical care. Because it is common for girls’ breasts to be lumpy during their teen years and into their early 20s, some gynecologists choose not to do a breast exam and say it’s not necessary for younger teens to do breast self-exams. However, it’s never too early to learn what is normal for your body. This makes it easier to recognize if something changes and might need to be checked out.

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