Examination: Breast

  • Wash hands
  • Introduce and explain how the examination will work
  • Note the need for a chaperone. Donít ask the patient if they want a chaperone, instead ask if they are happy with the examiner acting as a chaperone or would they like some one else present
  • Ask their permission to proceed
  • Expose patient on top half
  • Reposition (sitting upright for inspection, at a 45 degree angle for palpation)

  • General appearance of patient (cachexia, pallor, shortness of breath, breast asymmetry)
  • Inspect patient sitting in 3 positions: 1) with arms down and relaxed, 2) with hands on hips and elbows pushed forward, 3) with hands behind the head and elbows pushed back (make a particular effort to inspect the underside of the breast in this position). In all positions, look specifically for movement and visibility of a mass in the breast
  • Look at eye level for:
    OSCE-Aid Tips

    You can remember most of these as the 5 D's:

    • Discolouration
    • Dermatological (e.g. Paget's disease)
    • Discharge
    • Deviation
    • Depression/inversion
    • Asymmetry
    • Pitting
    • Peau d'orange
    • Prominent veins
    • Dimpling
    • Discharge
    • Discolouration
    • Puckering
    • Scars
    • Redness
    • Displacement
    • An obvious lump
  • Inspect the supraclavicular area and axillae for swollen nodes, veins and muscle wasting
  • Also look for any past signs of breast cancer, e.g.: mastectomy, scars, hair loss, radiation burns, lymphoedema of the arm (non-pitting generalised swelling)

  • Ask if the patient has any pain before starting, or if they have noticed any lumps or discharge
  • If the patient indicated that they have noticed a lump in one breast, ensure that you start palpation with the opposite breast first
  • Patient at 45 degrees, slightly tilted towards one side with a hand resting behind head
  • Examine one side, then ask them to turn over and do the same on the other side
  • Palpate in the four quadrants and the nipple areolar complex (NAC). Specifically check for discharge (if they report that they have experienced discharge, ask them to attempt to express it themselves)
  • Palpate from the outer margins in towards the centre. Remember: breast tissue can be found all the way up to the clavicle, especially the upper-outer axillary 'tail' of tissue
  • Describing a lump if you feel one:
    • Tenderness, site, size, shape, surface, edges, consistency, colour, contour, pulsatility, fluctuation, temperature, reduciblity, mobility and tethering
    • If there is a lump, ask the patient to push their hand forward against your hand and assess if it is attached to underlying muscle (tethering)
  • The axillae:
    • Ask patient to rest their forearm on your opposite forearm (e.g. right arm to right arm)
    • Use your opposite hand to palpate in the axilla
    • Roll fingers down axilla 4 times, feeling for the anterior, posterior, medial and lateral borders of the axilla (these are where the 4 lymph node groups are found)
    • Examine the left axilla with your left hand and vice versa
    • If you feel a lump, feel if it is fixed or not, and be preparted to comment on any features of it as noted above
  • The supraclavicular nodes bilaterally
  • Thank patient and wash your hands

To end your examination:
  • Offer to examine the respiratory system, the abdomen, the neurological system, and the spine for any signs of metastatic spread (if you found a lump)

written by: celine_lakra; saaid_sufi, first posted on: 19/03/12, 21:26

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mahmoudbasheer says...
Also during inspection is good to ask patient to til forward this will make the affected breast to be in higher in position, there is need to examine deltopectoral group of lymph node.
POSTED ON: 24/07/13, 09:28
sana says...
this osc is really good. but plz keep more examination like hernia examination, throid gland examination. n its beet u also keep the video so that we can remeber fast
POSTED ON: 31/08/13, 17:17

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