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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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For many countries across the world, October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month. This international health campaign originally started in the United States in 1985. The goal was to educate women about breast cancer and early detection tests, ultimately letting women take control of their breast health.  

For many countries across the world, October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month. This international health campaign originally started in the United States in 1985. The goal was to educate women about breast cancer and early detection tests, ultimately letting women take control of their breast health.  

Let’s take a closer look at the actual anatomy of the breasts. 

breasts
Anatomy of the breasts

The breasts sit on the anterior thoracic wall. The main surface anatomy of the breast includes three structures:

  1. The nipple- mostly smooth muscle fibers 
  2. The areolae- pigmented area of skin surrounding nipple 
  3. The sebaceous glands within the areolae- secrete protective lubricant for the nipple when enlarged from pregnancy 

Beneath the skin, the breasts are composed of mammillary glands and connective tissue:

Mammary Glands: Modified sweat glands. Consists of many ducts and secretory lobules. 

Connective Tissue Stroma: Supporting structure that surrounds the mammary glands. Both fibrous and fatty components. The fibrous stroma condenses to form suspensory ligaments that attach and secure the breast to the dermis and fascia. They also separate the secretory lobules of the breasts.  

Pectoral Fascia: This flat sheet of connective tissue is associated with the pectoralis major muscle and is the base the breast lies on. It is an attachment point for the suspensory ligaments. 

The lymphatic drainage of the breasts is of great clinical importance due to its role in metastasis of cancer. Drainage blockages associated with cancer can result in nipple deviation and retraction and dimpled pores. Large dimples are usually caused by cancerous invasions and fibrosis. This causes retraction of the suspensory ligaments. 

1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. Thus, early detection/screening provides the best chances of recovery.