The breast, or mammary gland is made up of lobules, milk producing glands, and a system of ducts to transport milk. Both males and females have breasts. Abnormal enlargement of breasts in men is referred to as gynecomastia. In women, during pregnancy the breasts grow larger and produce milk. Common medical conditions that affect the breasts include breast cancer, breast lumps, fibrocystic changes and cysts, mastitis, and benign tumors (fibroadenomas). Read more: Breast Anatomy Article
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Picture of Breast Anatomy
The breast refers to the front of the chest or, more specifically, to the mammary gland. See a picture of Breast Anatomy and...
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Breast Cancer Awareness: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
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Related Disease Conditions
Breast Enlargement Surgery (Breast Augmentation)
Second Source WebMD Medical Reference
Breast cancer is an invasive tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Breast cancer is detected via mammograms, breast self-examination (BSE), biopsy, and specialized testing on breast cancer tissue. Treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Breast cancer risk may be lowered by managing controllable risk factors.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of physical and emotional disturbances that occur after a woman ovulates and ends with menstruation. Common PMS symptoms include; depression, irritability, crying, oversensitivity, and mood swings. For some women PMS symptoms can be controlled with natural and home remedies, medications, and lifestyle changes such as exercise, nutrition, and a family and friend support system.
Prolactinoma (Pituitary Tumor)
Prolactinoma is an adenoma (benign tumor) of the pituitary gland. Causes of many prolactinomas are unknown. Symptoms in women include: changes in menstruation and infertility, decreased libido, or painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness. The most common symptom in men is impotence (erectile dysfunction). Treatments for prolactinomas include medication and surgery.
Women's health is an important topic area to guide a woman through the stages of her life, as well as knowing the conditions and diseases that may occur. Educating yourself so that the transitions into different phases of life is key to a healthy, happy, and productive life.
Breast Cancer Prevention
Lifestyle changes, a healthy antioxidant-rich diet, exercise, and weight reduction can help reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. It's important to be aware of how risk factors such as family history, lifestyle factors, breast conditions, radiation therapy, and hormonal factors may influence your chances of developing breast cancer. Mammography and breast self-examinations are crucial steps in breast cancer prevention.
Breast Cancer Questions to Ask the Doctor
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming, so it's important to write down all your questions before meeting with your doctor.
Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Fibrocystic breast condition (sometimes called fibrocystic breast disease) is characterized by lumpiness and usually pain, tenderness, and discomfort in one or both breasts. The condition is very common and benign (not malignant). Fibrocystic breast condition is the most common cause of "lumpy breasts" in women. A common symptom of fibrocystic breast condition is breast pain or discomfort. Some women with fibrocystic breasts have mile breast tenderness or pain. Other women with the condition may have very painful and tender breasts with lumpy areas that can be felt. Fibrocystic breast condition is most common in women after age 30, which continues through perimenopause and menopause. Women with the condition often have fewer problems after menopause (postmenopause).Fibrocystic breast condition that involves hyperplasia is associated with a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. Atypical hyperplasia is associated with a moderately increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to women with fibrocystic without fibrocystic changes. Natural and home remedies to help relieve breast pain include NSAIDs like aspiring, Aleve, and Advil. Prescription medication also may help relieve symptoms of fibrocystic breasts.
Breast Lumps (in Women)
Breast lumps in women can have a variety of causes such as breast inflammation, infection, injuries, cancer, and non-cancerous growths. Breast lumps in women are diagnosed with physical exam, mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy. Treatment of breast lumps in women depend on the cause.
Breast Cancer and Coping With Stress
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is stressful. Learning relaxation techniques, exercising, eating well, getting adequate sleep, receiving psychotherapy, and maintaining a positive attitude can help you cope. Creating documents, such as an advance directive, living will, and durable power of attorney will outline your wishes in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your care.
Breast Cancer and Lymphedema
Lymphedema is a common chronic, debilitating condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling in them. It is common after a mastectomy, lumpectomy or breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy.
Breast Cancer During Pregnancy
Breast cancer occurs in about 1 in every 1,000 pregnant women. Treatment of breast cancer during pregnancy involves surgery, but it is very difficult to protect the baby from the dangerous effects of radiation and chemotherapy. It can be an agonizing to decide whether or not to undergo breast cancer treatment while one is pregnant.
Breast Cancer Recurrence
Breast cancer most often recurs within the first three to five years after the initial treatment. Changes in the look, feel, or appearance of the breast may indicate breast cancer recurrence. Factors related to recurrence include tumor size, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, lymph node involvement, and oncogene expression. Treatment for recurrent breast cancer depends on the initial treatment.
Thrush (Oral Candidiasis)
Thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by the Candida fungus. Symptoms of thrush include pain or difficulty swallowing, a feeling that food gets stuck in the throat, and fever.
Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
Breast cancer clinical trials are research programs designed to evaluate new medical treatments, drugs, or devices for the treatment of breast cancer. Clinical trials are designed to test the safety and efficacy of new treatments as well as assess potential side effects. Clinical trials also compare new treatment to existing treatments to determine if it's any better. There are many important questions to ask your doctor before taking part in a breast cancer clinical trial.
Breast Cancer in Young Women
About 5% of cases of breast cancer occur in women under the age of 40 years old. Some risk factors for breast cancer in young women include a personal history of breast cancer or breast disease, family history of breast cancer, prior radiation therapy, and the presence of BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations. Breast self-exams, clinical breast exams, and screening mammograms may help detect breast cancer. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is an accelerated form of breast cancer that is not usually detected by mammogram or ultrasound. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include pain in the breast, skin change in the breast area, bruise on the breast,sudden swelling of the breast, nipple retraction or discharge, and swelling of the lymph nodes.
Male Breast Cancer
Male breast cancer accounts for 1% of all breast cancers, and most cases are found in men between the ages of 60 and 70. A man's risk of developing breast cancer is one in 1,000. Signs and symptoms include a firm mass located below the nipple and skin changes around the nipple, including puckering, redness or scaling, retraction and ulceration of the nipple. Treatment depends upon staging and the health of the patient.
Cysts are sac-like structures that may be filled with gas, liquid, or solid materials. Cysts may produce symptoms and signs depending on their location. Treatment of a cyst depends upon what caused the cyst in the first place.
Paget Disease of the Breast (Paget's Disease of the Nipple)
Paget's disease is a rare form of cancer that forms in or around the nipple and frequently coexists with breast cancer. The exact cause of Paget's disease is unknown. Symptoms and signs include redness, scaling, and flaking of the nipple skin. A biopsy and imaging studies are needed to diagnose the disease. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, and adjuvant therapy.
Symptoms of 12 Serious Diseases and Health Problems
Learn how to recognize early warning signs and symptoms of serious diseases and health problems, for example, chronic cough, headache, chest pain, nausea, stool color or consistency changes, heartburn, skin moles, anxiety, nightmares, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, delusions, lightheadedness, night sweats, eye problems, confusion, depression, severe pelvic or abdominal pain, unusual vaginal discharge, and nipple changes. The symptoms and signs of serious health problems can be caused by strokes, heart attacks, cancers, reproductive problems in females (for example, cancers, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and sexually transmitted diseases or STDs), breast problems (for example, breast cancer and non-cancer related diseases), lung diseases (for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, lung cancer, emphysema, and asthma), stomach or digestive diseases (for example, cancers, gallbladder, liver, and pancreatic diseases, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease), bladder problems (for example, urinary incontinence, and kidney infections), skin cancer, muscle and joint problems, emotional problems or mental illness (for example, postpartum depression, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mania, and schizophrenia), and headache disorders (for example, migraines, or "the worst headache of your life), and eating disorders and weight problems (for example, anorexia or bulimia).
Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs
Pregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and not all women experience the same symptoms. When women do experience pregnancy symptoms they may include symptoms include missed menstrual period, mood changes, headaches, lower back pain, fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, and heartburn. Signs and symptoms in late pregnancy include leg swelling and shortness of breath. Options for relief of pregnancy symptoms include exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes.
The time when boys and girls begin the process of sexual maturation is called puberty. During this time, both sexes undergo a series of biological changes that include a rapid increase in height, bone growth, weight increase, the growth of pubic hair, breast development and the onset of menstruation in girls, and testicle, penis, and muscle enlargement in boys.
Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: Questions and Answers
As breast cancer is the most diagnosed non-skin cancer in American women, it is important to know your breast cancer risk. Risk factors include age, age at menarche, age at first live birth, history of breast abnormalities, breast biopsies, race, and history or breast cancer among first-degree relatives.
Pregnancy Changes and Body Discomforts
Pregnancy can bring challenges like weight gain, stretch marks, varicose veins, heartburn, constipation, hemorrhoids, problems sleeping, and wondering if it is safe to have sex while pregnant. Learn how to manage and move through these challenges during pregnancy.
Swollen Lymph Nodes (Glands)
Lymph nodes help the body's immune system fight infections. Causes of swollen lymph nodes (glands) may include infection (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasites). Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes vary greatly, but may include fever, night sweats, toothache, sore throat, or weight loss. Causes of swollen lymph nodes also vary, but may include cancer, the common cold, mono, chickenox, HIV, and herpes. The treatment of swollen lymph nodes depends upon the cause.
Gynecomastia (Enlarged Male Breasts)
Gynecomastia, an enlargement of the gland tissue in the male breast is caused by an imbalance of hormones. Certain medical conditions may also lead to gynecomastia such as cirrhosis, malnutrition, disorders of the male sex organs, kidney failure, thyroid disorders, and medications. Gynecomastia is generally treated with medication, and if necessary, surgery.
Lymphedema is a condition in which one or more extremities become swollen as the result of an impaired flow of the lymphatic system. There are two types of lymphedema: primary and secondary. Filariasis is the most common cause of lymphedema worldwide. In the U.S., breast cancer surgery is the most common cause. Symptoms include swelling of one or more limbs, cracked and thickening skin, and secondary bacterial or fungal infections of the skin. There is no cure for lymphedema.
Breastfeeding: Common Breastfeeding Challenges
Breastfeeding an infant can cause common challenges both for the mother an infant. Some challenges include sore nipples, low milk supply, oversupply of milk, engorgement, plugged ducts, breast infection, fungal infections, nursing strike, inverted, flat, or very large nipples, breastfeeding a baby with health problems, and breastfeeding in special situations. Tips and helpful information can inform mothers how to manage and handles these challenges while continuing to breastfeed her baby.
Breast Cancer Treatment by Stage
Treatment of breast cancer depends upon the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Some of the various treatments include: hormone therapy, radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, HER2-targeted therapy, neoadjuvant therapy, and adjuvant therapy.
Central Precocious Puberty?
Central precocious puberty is characterized by the unusual early onset of puberty -- in girls, prior to 8 years of age, and boys, prior to 9 years of age. The appearance of secondary sex changes -- enlargement of penis and testicles and development of breast tissue and facial, pubic, and axillary hair -- in central precocious puberty precedes that of routine onset of puberty by two and a half years. Treatment of central precocious puberty depends upon the cause.
Genetic Testing: Families With Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can be a killer and the decision to get tested to see if a patient is prone to the disease should be discussed with a doctor -- particularly if the woman has a history of breast cancer in her family. Genetic testing can only tell so much about breast cancer risk, however.
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer is more common in Hispanic and African-American women. Signs and symptoms include a lump in the armpit or breast, nipple discharge and inversion, and changes in the breast's skin. Treatment may incorporate surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Breast Cancer Facts
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer of American women, but it can also occur in men. Every year in the U.S., there are over 266,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer. A woman has a risk of one in eight for developing breast cancer at some point during her lifetime.
Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs
In most cases, there are no early warning signs of breast cancer. Breast cancer may not produce any early symptoms, and in many cases, it is first discovered on screening mammography. The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer treatments depend upon the type of breast cancer that is present as well as the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor. Treatment for early breast cancer typically involves surgery to remove the tumor. After surgery, medical professionals may administer radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.
HER2-Positive Breast Cancer
In about 10%-20% of breast cancers, the cancer cells test positive for HER2, sometimes referred to as the HER2/neu protein. HER2 is a growth-promoting protein located on the surface of some cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancers tend to grow more rapidly and spread more aggressively than breast cancers that are HER2-negative. Doctors do not know what specifically causes some breast cancers to express this protein while others do not.
What Is the BRCA Gene?
BRCA genes (BRCA 1 and 2, when normal, repair damaged DNA) are among the genetic mutations linked to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers when mutated. Every woman with a BRCA mutation is at high risk for breast cancer, irrespective of whether she has a family history of breast cancer or not. By age 80, a woman with a BRCA mutation has about an 80% chance of developing breast cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, by 54% and 23%, respectively.
Breast Cancer Stages
Breast cancer staging is the determination of the extent and spread of the cancer. An individual's health care team uses stages to summarize the extent of the cancer in a standardized way that is recognized by all health care providers. They use this staging to determine the treatment most appropriate for the type of cancer. Cancer staging helps to determine the prognosis, or outlook, of a cancer, including rates of recurrence and survival rates.
Can Fibroadenomas Turn Into Breast Cancer?
A fibroadenoma is the most common type of benign, non-cancerous lump of the breast. Although it is rare, complex fibroadenomas and phyllodes tumors have a chance to develop into malignant breast cancer.
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Breast Augmentation
- Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)
- Screening Tests for Cancer
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
- Breast Biopsy
- Breast Self Exam
- Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
- Breast Reduction
- Breast Reconstruction Without Implants
- Breast Reconstruction
- Preventive Mastectomy
- Is a Muscle Cut Necessary During a Submuscular Breast Augmentation?
- Is Mastopexy a Major Surgery?
- What Is an Inferior Pedicle Breast Reduction?
- How Long Does It Take to Recover from TRAM Flap Surgery?
- What Is Free Flap Breast Reconstruction?
- Breast Discharge (Nipple Discharge)
- Breast Lumps in Women
- Breast Pain
- Doctor: Getting the Most from Your Doctor's Appointment
- How to Choose a Doctor
- Doctor: Checklist to Take To Your Doctor's Appointment
- Breast Cancer
- Swollen Breast
- Changes in Skin of the Breast
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Paget Disease of the Breast
Medications & Supplements
Prevention & Wellness
- Study Confirms Denser Breasts Are More Prone to Cancer
- Dissatisfaction With Breasts May Mean Fewer Self-Checks for Cancer
- Breast Concerns May Sideline Many Teen Girls From Sports
- Some Women Face Geographic Barriers to Breast Reconstruction
- Vegetables in Childhood May Benefit Breast Health
- Do Breast Implants Boost Women's Sex Lives?
- Can Some Women Safely Skip Breast Surgery?
- New Silicone Breast Implants Approved
- Low Prenatal Iodine May Affect Child's Brain Development
- Metformin Won't Aid Breast Cancer Survival in Diabetics
- Angelina Jolie's Double Mastectomy: Q&A
- Menopause-Like Woes Hinder Breast Cancer Treatment: Study
- Human Gene Patent Case Goes to Supreme Court
- Teen Boys With Enlarged Breasts Show Emotional Effects
- For Early Cancer, Lumpectomy Beats Mastectomy for Survival: Study
- Diabetes Drug Metformin May Fight Cancer
- Smokers, Nonsmokers Alike Urged to Learn About Lung Cancer
- Black Breast Cancer Patients May Have Higher Death Risk in First 3 Years
- Hypnosis May Ease Hot Flashes in Postmenopausal Women
- Study: No Long-Term Heart Risks From Breast Radiation
- Panel Advises Against Hormones to Prevent Disease
- As Armstrong Case Unfolds, Experts Describe Doping's Harms
- Hormone Therapy in Early Menopause May Benefit Some Women: Study
- Might Smallpox Virus Help Fight a Lethal Breast Cancer?
- Study: Digital Beats Film Mammography at Spotting Breast Cancer
- Novel Drug Approach Shows Promise Against Breast Cancer
- Dense Breasts Not Linked to Cancer Deaths
- Mom's HIV Drugs May Pass to Baby in Womb, Breast-Feeding
- Mammograms Have 'Limited or No Effect' on Breast Cancer Deaths: Study
- Large Breasts Can Take Mental, Physical Toll on Teens
- Exercise Won't Affect Breast Milk, Baby's Growth: Study
- Plastics Chemical Linked to Obesity in Kids
- Even Moderate Exercise Might Cut Breast Cancer Risk: Study
- Efficient Disease Risk Prediction a Long Way Off, Experts Say
- Breast MRI Best at Tracking Response to Chemo: Study
- Mammograms Beat Thermography for Breast Cancer Detection: Study
- Men's Breast Cancer Often More Deadly, Study Suggests
- Pacifiers Don't Discourage Breast-Feeding, Study Says
- Breast Cancer Study Could Change Treatment
- Exercise Benefits Breast Cancer Patients
- Health Highlights: April 12, 2012
- Soy Supplements May Cool Hot Flashes: Study
- Teen Drinking May Boost Odds of Precancerous Breast Changes
- Follow-Up Procedures Common in Women After Breast-Conserving Surgery
- Many Medical Tests, Procedures Not Always Needed
- Cancer Deaths Continue to Fall
- Dense Breasts May Be Linked to Cancer Recurrence
- Obese Women at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence: Study
- Two Studies Find Routine Mammography Saves Lives
- FDA OKs 3rd Silicone-Gel Breast Implant
- Health Highlights: Feb. 29, 2012
- New USDA Nutrition Labels for Meat, Poultry
- Health Highlights: Feb. 28, 2012
- Health Tip: Preventing Back Pain Among New Moms
- Exclusive Breast-Feeding Best for Baby: Experts
- Researchers Spot New Gene Mutation Linked to Breast Cancer
- New Guidelines to Help Breast Cancer Survivors
- Study Links Colic in Infants to Migraines in Moms
- Psychotherapy May Ease Hot Flashes After Breast Cancer
- When Mom Has Pregnancy Diabetes, Breast-Feeding Curbs Child Obesity
- 1 in 4 Partial Mastectomy Patients Have Second Surgery
- Too Few Americans Getting Screened for Common Cancers: CDC
- Are Fears That Deodorant Causes Breast Cancer Unfounded?
- Breast Cancer Radiation Linked to Raised Heart Risk
- Limit Cold Medications During Pregnancy, Experts Advise
- 40 Years On, the Triumphs and Challenges of America's 'War on Cancer'
- Targeted Radiation for Breast Cancer May Be Overused: Study
- Moms of Preemies Face Health Problems, Too
- Carriers of Breast Cancer Gene at Risk of Second Cancer
- Bone Drug May Extend Lives of Young Women With Breast Cancer
- Family Tree May Affect Diagnosis Age in Some Breast Cancers
- Breast Cancer Gene Puts Survivors at Higher Odds for Recurrence
- British Study Suggests Mammograms May Do More Harm Than Good
- Bone Drugs May Also Battle Breast Cancer, Researchers Say
- Hispanic Women More Likely to Die of Breast Cancer
- Obesity Linked to Worse Outcomes With Early Breast Cancer
- Avastin Boosted Survival for Type of Aggressive Breast Cancer: Study
- Steps Women Can Take to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer
- Targeted Radiation May Not Be Better for Breast Cancer
- Mammograms May Halve Breast Cancer Deaths
- Can of Soup a Day Linked to High BPA Levels in Urine
- Tender Breasts From Combo HRT Linked to Higher Cancer Risk
- FDA Rejects Avastin for Breast Cancer
- Breast Reconstruction May Quickly Improve Quality of Life
- Experimental Drug Slims Obese Monkeys
- Common Breast Cancer Gene Test May Be Flawed, Study Says
- Light Drinking Over Time May Raise Breast Cancer Risk
- More Women With Breast Cancer Get Nipple-Sparing Surgery
- Vaccine May Help Slow Spread of Lung Cancer
- Breast Cancer Risk May Rise With High Hormone Levels
- Radiation Plus Surgery Cuts Risk of Breast Cancer Return
- Does Fertility Treatment Raise Breast Cancer Risk?
- Genetic Profiling Adds New Dimension to Breast Cancer Treatment
- Married People More Likely to Survive Cancer
- Health Woes Still Strike Women Exposed to Banned Pregnancy Drug
- Next Decade to See Boom in Older Cancer Survivors
- Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Advanced Cancers
- Breast Cancer Death Rates Decline
- Shorter Course of Radiation May Treat Prostate Cancer
- Study: BPA Common in Kids' Canned Foods
- Higher Risk of Second Breast Cancer Seen in Black Women
- Why Many With Breast Implants Fail at Breastfeeding
- Fatty Acids From Formula or Breastfeeding May Boost Mental Development
- Breast Cancer Rates Jump Worldwide, Study Finds
- Long-Term Painkiller Use Linked to Kidney Cancer
- Smoking Might Raise Sex Hormone Levels After Menopause
- FDA: Breast Implant Safety Studies Will Continue
- FDA Questions Studies of Breast Implant Safety
- Breastfeeding May Cut Risk of Some Breast Cancers
- Fat Injections: Safe for Breast Reconstruction After Cancer?
- FDA Panel Opposes New Type of Diabetes Drug
- PSA Test May Help Check for Breast Cancer
- Family History of Cancer Needs to Be Updated as You Age
- New Drug May Help Treat Diabetes
- Cancer Deaths in U.S. Still Dropping
- New Guidelines Suggest Higher Doses of Vitamin D
- 'Fat Transfer' Gets Early Safety OK in Breast Reconstruction
- Decade's Top 10 Public Health Achievements
- Low Vitamin D Linked to Aggressive Breast Cancer
- Is Soy Safe to Eat After Breast Cancer?
- Breast Milk May Hold Clues to Breast Cancer Risk
- Yoga Helps Cancer Survivors Sleep Better