What is a breast self-exam?

A breast self-exam is a step-by-step method women can use to examine their breasts. By looking at and feeling your breasts regularly, you can notice anything that seems abnormal.

Why should I do breast self-exams?

Monthly breast self-exams can help you detect changes that may be signs of infection or breast cancer (such as breast lumps or spots that feel different). When breast cancer is detected early, the chances for survival are much better.

Self-exams are important for breast health. But they should not replace exams and screening tests (such as mammograms) recommended by doctors. You should still see your primary care provider and/or gynecologist regularly.

Is there a particular time of the month I should do breast self-exams?

Women should do a breast self-exam once a month, every month. Women who are still menstruating (having a regular period) should perform a breast self-exam after their period. Women who have stopped menstruating and those who have very irregular periods can pick a day each month. Choose a day that is consistent and easy to remember, like the first day of the month, the last day of the month or your favorite number.

How long does a breast exam take?

A breast self-exam takes only a few minutes and can easily be built into your daily schedule. You can do a breast exam when you’re:

  • Dressing for the day or undressing at night.
  • Lying in bed in the morning or at bedtime.
  • Taking a shower.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/09/2021.

References

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy