Your Breast Friends: The Female Breast Anatomy and Physiology
There’s a million different names for them, they come in tons of different shapes and sizes but what even are breasts? The female breast is a pretty incredible part of the human body that is more complex than they seem!
So what actually makes up your breasts? Breasts are primarily made up of adipose tissue, which is really just a collection of fat cells. This tissue starts all the way under the collarbone, continues to the armpit and spreads across the middle of the ribcage.
In the female breasts, each breast is made up of 12-20 small sections called lobes. The lobes surround the nipple and within each lobe are many smaller lobules. At the end of each lobule there is a bulb, which is where milk is produced in nursing women. The lobes and lobules are connected via milk ducts, which carry the milk from the bulbs to the nipple. It is common for breast cancer to occur within the milk ducts. The nipple is surrounded by darker tissue called the areola, which has small glands that help lubricate the nipple during breastfeeding. Although there is no muscle in the actual breast tissue, there are muscles underneath the breast tissue that covers the ribs.
Breast development and function depend on hormones produced by the ovaries, estrogen and progesterone. Ever wonder why your breasts are tender before and around your menstrual cycle? The increase in progesterone is responsible for the swelling and tenderness you experience. The increase in estrogen and progesterone levels causes milk ducts in the breasts to widen. During this time the estrogen and progesterone are actually stimulating the uterus and breasts to prepare for possible fertilization...WHOA!
Breasts also have blood vessels and vessels that transport lymph (fluid that carries cells throughout the body to help fight infections). Lymph is then carried to lymph nodes, which are all over the body but some are in the armpit, collarbone and chest. These specific lymph node areas are where breast cancer sometimes spreads, so it's always important to check-in and give your ladies some love. I breakdown self breast exams in another article, here.