A physical examination of the breast is aimed at evaluating the breast for any dense tissue or lump which can be felt manually with a careful exam of the mass. This is mostly used in two conditions:
A percentage of 20% are the times when a breast cancer is detected by a manual physical exam as compared to a mammogram.
It is advised that a routine physical examination should be a part of periodical health check up for women at all ages, especially after 30.
Post treatment and during the patient is in therapy for cancer, a breast exam would be done periodically to evaluate any recurrence and the effect of treatment. After the therapy though the frequency of this test will become quite low.