The female breasts have a very important function in the human society. In the general condition of the female, breasts provide them with definite femininity and play an important role in making them appealing to the male race. However, the more important function of the breasts only comes on with pregnancy and childbirth. In the last month of pregnancy and after the childbirth has occurred, the breasts start producing milk. The breasts are thus the mammary organs of the female which provide the only nutrition for the human baby in the early months.
Nothing about the breast can be learnt adequately without first learning what the breast is composed of. The basic anatomy of the female breast is described below.
Quite simply put, they are a collection of fatty tissues and milk ducts bounded by a layer of skin and terminated by a nipple and areola. Yet, each of these parts has its own complexities and functions.
Morphology of the Breasts
From the outside, the breasts are visible as two protuberances on the female chest. They are present in the ventral part of the thoracic region, extending from the second to the sixth rib. They are located over the pectoralis major muscle, which is the chest muscle.
The roundness and firmness of the breasts differs from woman to woman; it varies according to the balance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body of the female. At the terminal point of the breast, the nipple is present. The nipple is a dark pea-sized organ present at the most convex part of the nipple. The nipple is surrounded by a darker region called as the areola. Both the nipple and the areolas may have varying colors, from light pink to dark brown. Nipple and areolas are both hairless and have sebaceous glands in order to lubricate them during breastfeeding.
Anatomy of the Breasts
Inside, the breast is a complex system of several layers of adipose tissue. The adipose tissue is nothing but fat. This is what gives the breasts their major quantity of bulk and rotundity. Embedded among the adipose tissues are Cooper’s ligaments, which are necessary to hold the adipose in place. Hence, Cooper’s ligaments are important for providing the firmness of the breasts.
The main function of them is to produce and provide milk for the suckling newborn. Towards this end, they have several milk duct systems. Each of them may contain 10 to 20 milk duct systems. The milk duct systems contain lobes at the end. Lobes contain several lobules, which are canalized towards the nipple by lactiferous tubules. There may be up to one million lobules in a single breast. It is within the lobules that the milk is produced. The lactiferous tubules are the ducts that bring the milk from the lobules towards the nipples by an action called as the let-down reflex.
For their supply of blood, they are provided by the internal thoracic artery. The internal thoracic artery is the major chest artery, which terminates into capillaries and then later into the internal thoracic vein. The deoxygenated blood is carried away from them by the internal thoracic vein.
An important part of breast anatomy is the lymphatic drainage system contained in them. About three-quarters of all the lymph in the breasts is passed onto the ipsilateral axillary nodes, which are contained within the same breast. The rest of the lymph is circulated to the parasternal nodes of the same breast or to the other breast or the lover abdominal lymph nodes.
Functions of Breasts
The functions of the different parts of the breasts are mentioned below:-
(i) Nipple – The nipple is the most anterior part of the breast. This is the portion of the breast that is taken in the mouth by the suckling infant and pressed against the palate of the mouth to suck in the milk. The nipple is also the most erogenous region of the breast in most women. There are a very large number of nerve endings in the nipple.
(ii) Areola – Areola have sebaceous glands in them, which help to lubricate the nipple during breastfeeding. The areola show the maximum changes in shape and size during pregnancy and after childbirth.
(iii) Adipose tissue – The adipose tissue provide the bulk for the breasts. They also hold the milk duct systems within them.
(iv) Cooper’s ligaments – Cooper’s ligaments can be called as the support system of the breasts. They hold the adipose tissues in their place. With advancing age, the Cooper’s ligaments lose their rigidity. This may cause the breasts to lose their firmness and sag.
(v) Milk duct systems – Milk duct systems perform the function of mammary glands, as their name suggests. With the help of lactogenic hormone of the pituitary gland, they are stimulated into milk production in the last month of pregnancy.
Variations in Breasts
Though the anatomy of them is the same in all women, there may be several variations shown externally. There are different shapes of them in women, like large breasts, small breasts, sagging breasts, ptotic breasts, etc. Even the two breasts of the same woman may show marked variations. Apart from the variations in shape and size, the nipples and areolas also show many differences.
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