Breast Anatomy

The breast is highly complex. It goes through more changes than any other part of the human body – from birth, puberty, pregnancy and breastfeeding, right through to menopause. Breast tissue extends from the collarbone, to lower ribs, sternum (breastbone) and armpit. Each breast contains 15-20 glands called lobes, where milk is produced in women who are breastfeeding. These lobes are connected to the nipple by 6-8 tubes called ducts which carry milk to the nipple. The breast and armpit contain lymph nodes and vessels carrying lymph fluid and white blood cells. Much of the rest of the breast is fatty tissue. The breast, like any other part of the body, consists of billions of microscopic cells. These cells usually multiply in an orderly fashion – new healthy cells continue to divide and replace the ones that have died. However, sometimes cells develop abnormalities (mutations). This occurs when the genes that usually check that cells are replicating correctly fail to detect mutations. When this happens, abnormal cells continue to divide and multiply, sometimes growing quite rapidly.


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