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Breast Health

Breast awareness

What is breast awareness?
• Take care of your well being.
• Know what is normal for you.
• Know what to look and feel for.

Breast awareness is a process of getting to know your own breasts and becoming familiar with their appearance. Learning how your breasts feel at different times will help you to know what is normal for you.

What's inside the breast?

Breast tissue can be found as high as the collar bone and extends from almost the middle of the chest over to the armpit.

The breast is made up of milk glands, fat and ducts which carry the milk to the nipple. The proportion of milk glands, ducts and fat in the breast changes as you get older. During puberty, and as the breast develops, it consists mainly of ducts.

However in a 20-year-old woman most of the breast is made up of milk glands. During pregnancy and breast feeding the glandular content of the breast increases dramatically as the breast becomes prepared to produce milk.

The breast also contains blood vessels, lymph nodes and nerves. The purpose of the lymphatic system is to fight off infections in the body.

Like blood vessels, there are tiny lymph vessels in every organ and tissue of the body. Fluid which normally leaks out of blood vessels to bathe the body tissues is collected by the lymph vessels and carried to groups of lymph nodes located at various places in the body. These nodes produce white blood cells which kill bacteria and clean the lymph fluid before it goes back into the blood. This makes the lymph system very important in protecting the body against infection and disease.

In the breast the lymphatic system drains mainly to lymph nodes in the armpit. There are also lymph nodes behind the sternum and a small number near the collar bone.

Before the menopause, normal breasts feel different at different times of the month. The milk producing tissue in the breasts becomes active in the days before a period starts. In some women, the breasts at this time feel tender and lumpy, especially near the armpits.

After the menopause activity in the milk producing tissue stops. Normal breasts feel soft, less firm and not lumpy.

Changes to look out for:


• Any change in the outline or shape of the breast, especially those caused by arm movements, or by lifting the breasts
• Any puckering or dimpling of the skin


• Discomfort or pain in one breast that is different from normal, particularly if new and persistent.


• Any lumps, thickening or bumpy areas in one breast or armpit which seem to be different from the same part of the other breast or armpit.

Nipple change

• Nipple discharge which is new for you and not milky
• Bleeding or moist reddish areas which don't heal easily
• Any change in nipple position - pulled in or pointing differently
• A rash on or around the nipple.