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Anatomy of the Breast

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hat is a mammary gland?

Mammary Gland is the medical term for the part that we usually refer to as the human breast.


What is a prominent nipple? What is an inverted nipple?

A nipple can be either of three basic "types":

  • It may stand out and away from the breast, which is called a "prominent nipple".

  • It may be flush with the rest of the breast, which is called a "flat nipple".

  • It may be retracted into the breast, which is called an "inverted nipple"

Or… it may be anywhere in between. Whatever a person has is perfectly "normal". None of these conditions will prevent someone from breastfeeding their child. The only thing that we should all be aware of is if the nipple CHANGES significantly. Obviously, cold, fear and sexual excitement will make temporary changes, but notify your personal medical care provider if these are not the cause of the change. Do not put it off, please!


What happens if a female pierces her nipple - What would happen to the milk?

Any nipple jewelry should be removed before a baby is given the breast, but some women are successful at breastfeeding with pierced nipples (obviously, the piercing should be totally healed (not a fresh wound)). The nipple contains a small duct for each of the lobules (the glands in the breast that produce milk). There are between 15 and 25 of those lobules. When a nipple is pierced, some of those ducts will most likely be destroyed. The lobules that those ducts service will not be able to function properly, and could cause breast complications. Also, anyone can see that there will be less milk available (though the functioning lobules will probably "make up" for their loss). The decision would be a personal one, but most nursing mothers and doctors would probably recommend that if you want to pierce the nipple (and they cannot convince you not to do it), you might want to wait until your breastfeeding days are behind you. Take a look at the diagram: Inside The Nipple.


What is an Areola?

The area that surrounds the nipple. The areola will often be a different color than the surrounding skin of the breast. It might be anywhere from a very light pink to a very dark brown-black, it will change color slightly at the time of puberty, and it will usually become darker and wider when the woman is pregnant (and breastfeeds). It may be an inch in diameter or four inches in diameter (increasing when pregnant (and lactating)). It will usually contain small bumps ("Montgomery's Glands') and may contain body hair. A picture is located at: Breast Exterior.


What are lobules?

The part of the breast that actually produces milk. These are also known as acini or alveoli. You can see how that works at: Inside The Breast.


What does inframammary ridge do?

It has no known purpose, but it is located all the way across the very bottom of the breast, where the breast attaches to the chest wall. During Breast Self Examinations, it will be very noticeable when you lie on your back. Get used to this, and do not confuse it with a questionable "mass". It may help you to take a look at: Inside The Breast.


What is a lymph node?

Lymph nodes are glands that gather lymphatic fluids to carry them from the body. The breast area contains a large number of them, especially under the arm and in the "tail" of the breast (the part that extends around the side under the armpit). Be especially aware of any that become enlarged for any reason. Take a look at the Lymphatic System and read about Breast Massage for more information on lymph nodes.


Why do breasts jiggle?

Two thirds of the AVERAGE breast consists of the breast tissue that is involved with the milk production and delivery. The other third is nothing more than fatty tissue. That is not all bad… fat fills in between the other parts to make the smooth, characteristically breast shape. The outer skin and the suspensory (Cooper's) ligaments provide the support for the breast. They pull up while the fat and breast tissues push down. This constant battle is visible as a bounce, or a jiggling movement. Inside The Breast may be helpful to you in understanding some of these terms.


Why do some nipples come with hair on them?

We have hair all over our bodies, but some hair is so small (or light colored) that it is not that noticeable. There is usually less hair surrounding a nipple on a female than there is on a male (as well as anywhere else on the female body), probably due to the hormone differences in their bodies. The important thing to understand is that it is not only okay, it is NORMAL that many (most?) women will find the occasional hair in the areolar area surrounding the nipple. Many women remove it, but if you do, choose a safe way to remove it.


What happens to mammary glands when women do not have babies?

When women go through the process of being pregnant, their breasts develop the ability to produce milk. If they do not ever become pregnant, their breasts will not lactate, and there is no proof that the breasts will be adversely affected. Some studies have been done to try to determine if this might increase their chance of contracting breast cancer. The fact that a woman has not delivered a child before she reaches the age of thirty years is listed by the American Cancer Society as one of the conditions that raises her risk of getting breast cancer during her lifetime. It is unclear if the lack of lactation is the reason for that.


Why do girls have different size breasts?

Barring any influence from injuries or diseases, the size of a woman's breasts will be determined by the genes that came from her mother and father. Fatty deposits on the body, pregnancy and breastfeeding may modify her appearance. Surgery is also a possibility. The thing to remember is that no two women have identical breasts, and very few even have a matched pair, so just about anything goes as far as being normal. When young women are developing breasts, one breast may develop more quickly than the other, causing undue alarm. The breasts will usually balance out by the time their body reaches the adult stage of development.


How can a woman increase breast size?

Breasts will finish developing, and then no amount of creams, hormones, or hypnotism will change their size.

Breasts contain no muscles, so no amount or type of exercise will cause a change in the breast size.

Extensive development of the pectoral muscles (that are BEHIND the breasts) may cause the breasts to be pushed about a half an inch further from the chest wall. However, that much exercise may cause the woman to lose part of her body fat, and some women actually have a negative net effect (get smaller)… (but stronger… LOL). Breast size can be temporarily modified by losing or gaining weight, which will change the amount of body fat that a woman has stored in her breasts. Unfortunately, she cannot control where the fat will be deposited or from where it might be removed. Pregnancy and lactation will make a breast change in size, but that is only temporary. Then, there is always surgery.


What is the average woman's breast size?

Until a few years ago, the average American breast size was 34 B. It has since changed to a 36 C, due to the large amount of women that have had breast augmentation surgery and the fact that the American public is getting heavier.


Is it normal for your breasts to hurt when you bump into something with them or push on them?

Breasts are just like any other flesh on the body. Bumps and bruises will cause pain. If a pain is noticed in a breast that has no cause, such as a recent bruise or something, pay close attention to it. If you do not know the cause of it, or it does not get better in a few days, ask your personal health care provider to check it out. It is better to be too cautious then to ignore it. It may need attention now.


Are the breasts an early sign of pregnancy?

Some women realize that they are pregnant before they even miss their menstrual period. They notice that their breasts are a little more sensitive than they usually are, and that they are becoming larger than usual. Their bra tends to become too tight. Breasts start developing immediately after a woman conceives, so that they will be ready for breastfeeding when the baby is born.