How to Do a Male Breast Self Exam (MBSE)

 Male breast cancer is considered rare. Most men are unaware that they can develop breast cancer; they view it as a woman's cancer. They don't realize that if you have breast tissue, and men do have breast tissue, that developing a breast cancer is a possibility. Each year in the United States, about 2,000 men are diagnosed with the disease.  

Because a clinical breast exam is not usually a part of a man's annual physical, nor do men go for mammogram screenings, most male breast cancers are discovered by the men themselves, either because of a change in the appearance or feel of their breast area. When a man is unaware of breast cancer symptoms, he may dismiss them; by the time he seeks care, the cancer may be advanced requiring more extensive treatment.

While ​many male breast cancers occur in men who have a family history of breast cancer, all men can benefit from knowing how to do a male breast self exam.

It is important that every man learn his family's history of breast cancer. Knowing that a genetic mutation, coming from either parent, may be passed on to him, he can take steps, such as genetic testing, to determine his risk for developing a breast cancer.

Men at high risk for breast cancer can benefit from doing a male breast self exam on a regular basis. If breast cancer runs in your family, or you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, you have a higher risk of developing male breast cancer.

Male breast ​self examination (MBSE) is to be performed each month. Knowing your overall health, and what your breast normally feels like is the best way to monitor your breast health. 

A Thought from Verywell

Men need to be aware of their risk for breast cancer; pay attention to any changes occurring in the breast anatomy, and ask their physician to perform a clinical breast exam as a part of their routine annual physical. 

Women reading this article can suggest to their husband or significant other to ask about the incidence of breast cancer in their family. A history of breast cancer, especially a BRCA mutation, should be shared with a physician and there needs to be a discussion about the risk of developing a breast cancer.

Edited by: Jean Campbell, MS

Make a regular monthly date for your MBSE.

Close-Up Of Calendar Date
Mark the date monthly. Maik Schmalenberg / EyeEm / Getty Images

Mark the date for your male breast self exam on your calendar. This will help you stay on track and reduce anxiety about normal breast changes.

Start in Your Bath or Shower

Man relaxing in bath, eyes closed
Start in the bath or shower. Chris Windsor / Getty Images

Run a warm shower or bath. Use soap or bath gel to create a soapy, slippery layer over your breast area. Well-soaped skin will be easier to examine, as it allows your fingers to slide along your skin without rubbing.

Check Your Breast Texture

Male Breast Self Exam MBSE
Male Breast Self Exam MBSE. Pam Stephan

Raise your left arm over your head, and if possible, put your left hand on the back of your head. On your right hand, put your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger together as a group. You will use these three fingers to check your left breast. Check the texture of your left breast by starting at the outer edge. Place your three fingers flat onto your skin, press down and move in small circles. Repeat this all around your breast. Don't rush.

Check Your Nipple

Pam Stephan
Male Breast Self Exam MBSE. Male Breast Self Exam MBSE
Check your nipple by gently squeezing it between your index and ring fingers. Look for any discharge, puckering, or retraction (pulling inward).

Check Both Sides

Reverse your hands and check your right breast, using the same methods as Steps 3 and 4. Both breasts must be checked.

Visual Examination

Rinse yourself off and dry with a towel. Stand before a mirror which is large enough for you to see both breasts. Take note of any asymmetry and skin changes (rash, puckers, dimples).

How to Handle a Lump

Remember that most lumps in male breasts are due to gynecomastia, which is a benign condition. In addition, 80% of all breast lumps are not cancerous. But if you do feel any change in your breasts that causes concern, see your doctor for a clinical breast exam.


American Cancer Society. Can Breast Cancer in Men Be Found Early? Last Medical Review: 06/15/2016, Last Revised: 09/15/2016

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