What is the female breast?Schematic representation of the anatomy and structure of the female breast. Click to enlarge.
The female breast (mamma) develops as a paired secondary sexual feature only during puberty. Each of the two female breasts consists of a mammary gland (mammary gland) as well as connective tissue features and fatty tissue, which can make up to 80 percent of the breast tissue outside of breastfeeding and determines the individual size and shape.
From the onset of puberty, the female breast is subject to constant hormonal fluctuations, which correlate with the menstrual cycle, hormonal changes during pregnancy and lactation, as well as age-related changes in hormone balance and influence weight structure as well as structure and shape of the female breast.
With increasing age (about 40 years of age), the mammary gland body is successively substituted by connective and later also fatty tissue and the mammary tissue loses volume and elasticity.
Anatomy & Construction
The female breast rests approximately between the third and seventh ribs of the pectoral muscle. Each paired mammary gland (Glandula mammaria) has 15 to 20 individual glands (lobes, glandular lobes) separated by loose connective tissue.
In turn, these branches branch out like trees into grape-shaped lobules (lobules), the ends of which consist of milk sacs (alveoli) in which breast milk is produced during lactation. Via a ductus lactiferi (main duct or milk duct), the individual glands open into the nipple (nipple). Each milk duct unfolds in the apron of the mouth in a sack-like manner to a so-called sinus lactiferi (milk sack), which acts during lactation as a milk reservoir.
The mamille is surrounded by a individually different sized and strongly pigmented atrium (areola mammae). The areola mammae has numerous sweat and sebaceous glands. The local muscle and nerve cells ensure with appropriate stimulation (including sexual arousal, touching the child during lactation), a raising of the nipple.
In addition, lymphatic tracts and blood vessels run through the female breast. The lymphatic drainage from the chest is ensured primarily through the lymph nodes of the armpit.
Functions & TasksNot all lumps in the breast indicate breast cancer. Nevertheless, they should be clarified in mammography.
The primary biological function of the female breast is the feeding of the newborn child through breast milk (lactation). The mammary glands of the female breast produce during breast-feeding breast milk, with which the infant is sufficiently supplied with nutrients.
In addition, it contains antibodies that give the child, whose immune system is not yet developed, a sufficient immune protection. Already during pregnancy a kind of premilk (colostrum) can be formed, which is very rich in antigens and proteins.
In the areola mammae (areola) there are 10 to 15 small nodules or sebaceous glands (Montgomery glands) arranged in a circle, which ensure postnatal apocrine secretion. On the one hand, they protect the skin of the nursing breast and ensure an air seal between the baby's mouth and the nipple, thereby facilitating the process of mammography.
In addition, the milk bags serve as a milk reservoir during breastfeeding and take over the pumping function. In addition to this primary function, it is believed that the female breast has evolved as a specifically human sexual dimorphism that is supposed to be attractive to potential sexual and reproductive partners. In particular, the breasts of the female breast are considered an erogenous zone.
Diseases & complaints
The female breast may be subject to various genetic or acquired malformations. Possible mammary anomalies include an aberrant breast (abnormally localized mammary tissue), polythelia (more than two breasts), acquired malformations such as mammary hypertrophy (oversized breast) or mastoptosis (sagging), asymmetries such as congenital anisomastia (uneven breasts) and postoperatively or traumatically acquired deformations.
In a polymasty, excessive glandular tissue develops along the milk strips. Breastfeeding mothers often have inflammation of the mammary gland, which is triggered by bacterial or viral pathogens and their spread mostly via the lymphatic vessels.
In the second half of the cycle, water retention can develop a feeling of tightness in the breasts (mastodynia), while a hormonal imbalance between progesterone and estrogen concentrations can trigger benign remodeling of the mammary tissue (mastopathy).
As a result of benign processes of remodeling in the glandular tissue, cysts as well as a fibroadenoma (benign tumorigenic neoplasm) or ductal papilloma may manifest. Malignant changes in the female breast (breast cancer), one of the most common malignancies of women, include ductal (milk duct neoplasia) or lobular carcinomas (neoplasia in the lobules), inflammatory breast cancers and Paget's carcinomas (mostly of ductal carcinoma neoplasia of the nipple ).