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Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center / Centers & Clinics

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Breast Exam

Breast Cancer Screenings

Dr. Connolly with patient

Screenings are exams used to detect breast cancer before they cause symptoms. When breast cancer is found early, more treatment options are available with a greater chance of long-term survival. It is vital that you know how to screen for the disease by working with your doctor during annual clinical checkups to establish a schedule of breast screenings. 

At the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, we work with experts at the Johns Hopkins Breast Center to offer a variety of breast cancer screening options and resources to answer your questions and address any of your concerns.

Breast Awareness and Self-exam

A breast self-exam can help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your care provider if there are any changes. However, a breast self-exam is not recommended as the only screening tool for cancer.

Adult women of all ages may choose to perform breast self-exams. A mammogram can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump.

If you notice any of these changes in your nipple or breast, you should notify your doctor:

  • Any discharge
  • An unexplained change in the size or shape
  • Dimpling or puckering
  • Lump
  • Tenderness
  • Redness or warmth
  • Itchy, scaly skin

Learn more about breast self-awareness.

Clinical Breast Exam

A clinical breast exam is performed by a doctor or care provider who is trained to recognize many different types of abnormalities and warning signs. This in-office exam will most likely be completed by your family physician or gynecologist at your annual exam.

Johns Hopkins provides an integrated approach to breast care with a clinical team that includes a range of providers, including experienced nurse practitioners who specialize in breast health, breast wellness and long-term follow up for breast cancer survivors.

Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center features a Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service (BOSS) to help patients understand their risks for developing breast cancer. An expert team of physicians, genetic counselors and nurse practitioners are available to review family history and other risk factors to provide an individualized risk assessment. The service also offers clinical breast exams and can guide you on the best methods of prevention.

Women with a significant family history of breast cancer or others at high risk for developing breast cancer can take advantage of genetic counseling services, including testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.



Mammography is an examination of your breasts using low-dose x-rays. Mammograms can often show a breast lump before it can be felt. At Johns Hopkins, we offer both screening and diagnostic mammograms.

Screening mammograms: Annual screening mammograms are recommended for women who are 40 years or older, or for younger women with specific risk factors for breast cancer. You don’t have to have any signs or symptoms of a breast abnormality in order to receive a screening. They are used for the early detection of breast cancer and other breast health issues. 

Diagnostic mammograms: You will be referred for this type of mammogram if you have a breast mass or other breast abnormality (found during a breast self-exam or by your physician), or if you have other symptoms of breast tissue density or changing breast tissue.