The Anatomy of a Woman’s Breasts

Institutes & Services > Women's Services

A Woman’s Breast

Female breasts feature specialized cells designed to nourish infants. Lobules – groups of glands – make the milk that travels along hollow tubes called ducts through the nipple to the baby.

Fat and other tissue (such as skin, muscle and ligaments) hold this system of glands and ducts in place.

Lymph nodes are also vital for breast health. Located throughout the body, these channels help drain fluids from nearby tissues. The lymph nodes nearest the breast are found under the arm (called axillary nodes) and beneath the breastbone (called internal mammary nodes).

Breast Health

To maintain breast health, familiarize yourself with how your breasts look and feel. Once you know that, you can identify when something doesn’t seem right.

Breast Exams: Why They're Important

Early breast cancer does not usually show symptoms – that’s why regular breast exams are important. Warning signs include:

  • A thickened area of tissue under your arm or in or near your breast that does not go away after your period
  • A lump or a mass that can feel as small as a pea
  • Change in your breast’s size or shape
  • Discharge (either bloody or clear) from your nipple
  • Reddened skin on the breast or nipple
  • Skin changes on the breast or nipple, such as dimpled, scaly or puckered
  • An area that looks and or feels different from the rest of your breast
  • A hardened area beneath the skin

The earlier you find a problem and get help, the better it is for your long-term health.

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