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Understanding Your Breasts: A Health Guide for All Women

Oct 9, 2007
A woman's breast is a gland that produces milk in late pregnancy and after childbirth. Each breast is made of lobes which are groups of milk glands called lobules. Lobules are arranged around thin tubes called ducts which carry the milk to the nipple. These lobules and ducts make up what is referred to as the glandular tissue.

Breasts also contain lymph vessels which carry a clear fluid called lymph. The lymph vessels lead to small, round organs called lymph nodes. Group of lymph nodes are found near the breast in the underarm, above the collarbone, in the chest behind the breastbone, and in many other parts of the body.

The lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells, or other harmful substances that may be in the lymphatic system. Their job is to make sure harmful substances are safely and quickly removed from the body.

As with any gland or organ with the human body, some imperfections are likely to occur. Perhaps you feel that your breasts are too small or too large. Maybe you have questions about breast feeding or breast cancer.

You might notice different kinds of breast changes at different times of your life. Breast changes occur in almost all women, and most of these changes are NOT cancer. Many of the changes are caused by your hormone levels and are a normal part of the aging process.

Younger women may have more glandular (more dense, less fatty) breast tissue than older women who have stopped having their period (menopause). This kind of tissue is where breast changes usually occur.

Most women have swelling, tenderness, and pain in their breasts before and sometimes during their periods. You may also feel one or more lumps during this time because of the extra fluid that has collected in your breasts. The lumpiness and pain usually go away by the end of your period.

During pregnancy, your breasts may feel lumpy, since the glands which produce milk increase in number and get larger. While breast feeding, you may get an infection called mastitis which happens when a milk duct becomes blocked.

Mastitis causes the breast to look red and feel lumpy, warm and tender. Mastitis is often treated with antibiotics, but sometimes the duct may need to be drained.

Nipple discharge is common for some women. It is fluid from the nipple in different colors or textures. Usually, this is not a sign of cancer. For example, birth control pills and other medications, such as sedatives, can cause a little discharge.

However, for women who are going through or have passed menopause, nipple discharge can be a sign of cancer.

One of the most common plastic surgeries performed in the U.S. is breast implants. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were 255,000 breast enhancement implant surgeries in 2003, nearly twice the number done in 1998.

Despite a decade of controversy over their safety, breast implants are more popular than ever among women who want to build upon what nature gave them or who want to restore what disease has taken away.

Some medical care providers say that using breast implants to rebuild the breast (reconstruction), or change its size and shape (augmentation), significantly improves the quality of life for many women.

Advocates of breast implants also say that a woman's consent to the surgery should be considered valid as long as she carefully weighs the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Whether you are looking to augment your breast size, reduce the size of your breasts, or are looking for clothing that will make your breasts look more attractive, reliable and current information can be easily found by searching the Internet.

Perhaps you need useful and relevant information about breast feeding--its benefits and the best positions and techniques. Or maybe you are concerned about the possibility of breast cancer--there are hundreds of websites dealing with all issues pertaining to the human breast.
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