Normal Breast Anatomy
While “normal” can be something of a relative term when it comes to describing breast tissue, as every woman’s body is different, understanding the anatomy of healthy breasts is important in detecting changes that could be a sign of potential breast disease or cancer. At Hoag Breast Cancer Center in Newport Beach, CA, breast surgeon Dr. Sadia Kahn encourages her female patients to regularly practice self exams, in order to become familiar with what is normal for them, and to be aware of any subtle changes in the breasts or nipples if and when they occur.
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Female Breast Anatomy
The composition of female breasts is intricate, and some women have denser breast tissue than others, which can sometimes make it difficult to detect abnormalities. Each breast consists of:
- connective tissue
- lymph nodes
The lobules, ducts, alveoli, and areola function to produce and transport milk through the nipple in women who are breastfeeding. The fat and connective tissue give the breasts their size and shape, and the lymph nodes help to effectively drain waste through the lymphatic system. Any portion of the breast can undergo changes, which can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Changes in Breast Anatomy
Contrary to popular belief, not all changes to breast tissue or new symptoms signal breast cancer. In fact, many of the same symptoms of breast cancer are the result of benign changes. However, the only way to properly diagnose the nature of changes to breast tissue is through a comprehensive medical exam, and any changes should be reported immediately. Additionally, many symptoms are often undetectable and require diagnostic imaging tests like a mammogram.
The most common symptoms of both benign and potentially cancerous changes to normal breast tissue include:
- Thickening/redness/dimpling (“orange peel” effect) of the skin of the breast surrounding the nipple
- Pain that is unrelated to the menstrual cycle
- Nipple discharge
Often, especially in younger women, temporary breast symptoms are the result of hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle. While most changes are usually benign, it is best to be aware and report any noticeable changes in the breasts in order to be sure.
Contact a Breast Cancer Specialist Today
For compassionate, professional diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Sadia Khan, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon at Hoag Breast Care Center in Newport Beach. Please call 949.390.9381 to schedule a comprehensive consultation today!
Next, read about Breast Cancer Prevention/Lifestyle Modification.