Cathy Cole, R.N.C., N.P., M.P.H., clinical nurse manager at the Breast Center at the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Center, is spreading the word that high-quality clinical breast exams form a big part of improved women’s health care.
Cole is among a select group of health professionals recently chosen for a committee that will advance efforts to standardize how clinicians nationwide conduct breast exams.
Along with regular mammography, clinical breast examination forms the backbone of routine screening for breast cancer. Through the exams, clinicians scrutinize the breasts for abnormalities and carefully palpate each breast, feeling for telltale signs of a breast tumor.
However, the usefulness of such exams can depend on the skill and training of the clinician. Health experts know that specific training can increase the sensitivity and dependability of such exams, providing reassurance for patients and timely referrals for breast problems or concerns.
Several years ago, the National Consortium of Breast Centers formed a committee of breast health experts to develop a curriculum to certify physicians and other health professionals in the correct way to perform clinical breast exams, as well as recommended referral strategies.
Now Cole will be part the National Consortium of Breast Centers’ group charged with spreading that curriculum and standardizing the examinations nationwide.
“Too often there is a delay in diagnosis of serious breast problems because of a lack of confidence in the clinical findings and too much reliance on imaging studies,” Cole said. “A core curriculum with algorithmic pathways will make breast care more comprehensive.”