Breast massage could have several health benefits, such as stimulating blood flow and helping with nursing. The technique varies depending on the intended use.

In this article, we discuss some possible benefits of breast massage. We also describe techniques for self-massage and look into risks.

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Stimulating blood flow is a potential benefit of breast massage.

The breasts contain mammary glands that produce milk, as well as a complex network of lobes, ducts, blood vessels, fatty and fibrous tissues, and lymphatic tubes.

Massage may help keep the breasts healthy. The potential benefits involve:

Breast cancer

Breast massages may help detect breast cancer, possibly as a form of self-examination.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that 71% of breast cancer cases in women under 50 are found during breast self-examinations.

Cancer may feel like a hard lump or thickened tissue in the breast, and it may change breast size or shape.

Early diagnosis of breast cancer can lead to a better outcome — it provides more opportunity for treatment before the cancer spreads far. When breast cancer is localized, most people have a 99% chance of living for at least 5 years after the initial diagnosis.

It is also important to keep in mind that breast lumps are unlikely to be breast cancer. In most cases, the cause of these lumps is relatively benign, such as a cyst or infection.


Breast massage may help reduce pain that can occur when milk builds up within the breast.

A 2015 study, for example, found that all 42 breastfeeding participants reported a reduction in breast and nipple pain following therapeutic breast massage.

Some types of massage may be more effective than others. A 2012 study compared the effects of Oketani massage with those of regular breast massage on 47 breastfeeding women. Oketani is a method that focuses on the tissues connecting the chest muscles to the breast.

The participants who received Oketani massage reported less breast pain than those who received regular massage.

Also, breast massages may help prevent blockages in the milk ducts and otherwise improve the flow of milk.


The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that collect and filter excess fluid waste around the body. These vessels in the breasts carry fluids to the lymph nodes near the breastbone, collarbone, or underarm.

Damage to the lymphatic system can cause fluid and waste to build up. This buildup can lead to swelling, called lymphedema.

Breast massage may help stimulate the lymph vessels and reduce the risk of lymphedema in the arms and chest.

However, the effect is not confirmed. A 2013 review of 10 randomized controlled trials found no evidence that manual stimulation could prevent or reduce lymphedema.

A more recent study, from 2017, found some evidence that manual stimulation was effective. It used MRI scans to show that the stimulation had helped move excess lymph fluid.

Breast massage techniques vary, depending on their intended use:


  • Place four fingers on the top and bottom of one breast.
  • Apply gentle pressure while moving the fingers of both hands in smooth, circular motions.
  • Position the fingers on each side of the same breast and continue to massage in a circular pattern.
  • Repeat on the other breast.

Cancer detection

  • Stand in front of a mirror and look for any changes in the color, shape, size, or texture of the breast.
  • Place one hand behind the head, so that the elbow points out to the side.
  • Massage the breast using the first three fingers of the opposite hand.
  • Apply gentle pressure and massage in a circular motion.
  • Make sure to massage the entire breast — from the collarbone to the top of the abdomen and toward the armpit.
  • Repeat on the other breast.

A person can perform a breast massage while standing up or lying down. It may be most comfortable to do so in the shower.

See a doctor if there are any possible indications of cancer, such as:

  • new lumps or bumps on or around the breasts
  • swelling
  • skin changes, including redness, dimpling, or flaking
  • discharge other than breast milk
  • swollen lymph nodes under the arm or collarbone

Lymph node drainage

  • Place one hand on top of the breast on the opposite side of the body, so that the fingertips go into the armpit and the palm rests on the chest.
  • Squeeze the hand over the breast in a pumping motion.
  • Using the same pumping motion, slowly move the hand down toward the nipple.
  • Massage around the outside, bottom, and inner areas of the breast.
  • Repeat on the other breast.

Breast massages are generally safe.

However, anyone who has breast cancer or who has had recent surgery should take care when massaging near a lump or scar.

A doctor can provide guidance, which may be especially helpful for people undergoing treatment for a breast-related health condition.

The doctor may recommend working with a licensed massage therapist to reduce the risk of harm.

Some people believe that breast massage increases breast size, firmness, or skin elasticity. But there is a lack of scientific evidence behind these claims.

One study did find that a 15-minute breast massage with bitter almond oil may reduce stretch marks during pregnancy.

Breast massage may help detect breast cancer, support lymphatic drainage, and relieve pain from breastfeeding. Various massage techniques can have different effects.

Some people should be cautious about trying breast massage, such as people undergoing cancer treatment. It may be a good idea to consult a doctor, a licensed massage therapist, or both.