December 30, 2006

Womens Health - About Your Breasts


Breast Basics
The breast is a gland that produces milk in late pregnancy and after childbirth.

What are breasts made of?
Each breast is made of lobes.
Lobes are groups of milk glands called lobules.
Lobules are arranged around thin tubes called ducts.
Ducts carry the milk to the nipple.
These lobules and ducts make up the glandular tissue.

What is the lymphatic system?
The breasts also contain lymph vessels, which carry a clear fluid called lymph.
The lymph vessels lead to small, round organs called lymph nodes. Groups of lymph nodes are found near the breast in the underarm, above the collarbone, in the chest behind the breastbone, and in many other parts of the body.

The lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells, or other harmful substances that may be in the lymphatic system. Their job is to make sure harmful substances are safely removed from the body.

See your health care provider about a breast change when you have:
A lump in or near your breast or under your arm
Thick or firm tissue in or near your breast or under your arm
Nipple discharge or tenderness
A nipple pulled back (inverted) into the breast
Itching or skin changes such as redness, scales, dimples, or puckers
A change in breast size or shape
If you notice a lump in one breast, check the other breast. If both breasts feel the same, it may be normal. You should still see your health care provider for a clinical breast exam to see if more tests are needed.

Adapted from National Cancer Institute