Breast (cont.)

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What is the function of the nipples and surrounding pigmented tissue?

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The nipple becomes erect because of such stimuli as a cold environment, breastfeeding, and sexual activity. The nipple of the post-partum female is used by the infant to breastfeed.

The small darkened (pigmented) area around the nipple is called the areola. (The word "areola" is the diminutive of the Latin "area" meaning a small space.) In pregnancy the areola darkens further and spreads in size. The areola contains small modified sweat glands (Montgomery's glands) that secrete moisture that acts as a lubricant for breastfeeding.

What are other internal features of the breast?

The lobules and ducts in the breast are supported by surrounding fatty tissue and the suspensory ligaments of the breast. There are no muscles in the breast. However, the breast tissue is located on top of the muscles of the chest wall. The characteristic bounce of the breast comes from the elasticity of the matrix of connective tissue fibers in the breast.

There are blood vessels and lymphatic vessels in the breast. The lymphatic vessels are thin channels similar to blood vessels; they do not carry blood but collect and carry tissue fluid which ultimately re-enters the blood stream. Breast tissue fluid drains through the lymphatics into the lymph nodes located in the underarm (axilla) and behind the breast bone (sternum).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/18/2012

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