A local health research group is highlighting missed opportunities to discuss breast health and risks with women around the region.

Each year the Public Health Management Corporation contacts local residents to ask about their health habits, concerns, and access to care.

The annual survey includes questions about clinical breast exams--which researcher Francine Axler says--can be a good opportunity for doctors and patients to discuss strategies to detect cancer early.

"What we are finding is that many women in Southeastern Pennsylvania are not receiving basic, clinical breast exams," said Axler, who leads PHMC's Center for Data Innovation.

A clinical breast exam is not a mammogram, not an X-ray picture. Instead, it's a physical examination conducted by a doctor, or some other health professional, who does a hands-on and visual check for changes in the breasts and underarms.

The PHMC estimates about one-third of women age 18 and older in Southeastern Pennsylvania have not had a clinical breast exam in the past year.

For a separate research study, Axler's group gathered women for conversations about unmet health needs.

"When we asked women why they were not going for baseline screenings--such as clinical breast exams and mammograms--we found that women seemed very confused about how often they should be going for these screenings and tests," Axler said.

Health advocacy groups—such as the American Cancer Society--have very different recommendations about vary how often those exams are needed.

Disclosure: The Public Health Management Corporation sponsors WHYY reporting and programming.