Breast Disorders

The breasts consist of fatty tissue that gives them their size and shape, lobules that secrete milk after childbirth, and milk ducts that carry the milk to the nipple during breast-feeding. The nipples are sensitive to touch and play a role in sexual arousal. Most disorders of the breasts are not serious, although breast cancer is becoming increasingly common.

Throughout life, the breasts change size and shape in response to varying levels of female sex hormones. The breasts usually enlarge during puberty, before periods, and during pregnancy and breast-feeding. This enlargement can be associated with breast pain and with generalized lumpiness.

This section opens with an overview of the causes of breast lumps, both normal and abnormal. Many women associate a breast lump with breast cancer, but in fact most lumps are noncancerous. Two of the common causes of noncancerous lumps in the breasts, fibroadenomas and breast cysts, are discussed next in this section.

The following articles cover breast pain, abnormalities in breast size, and problems that affect the nipples. The final article deals with breast cancer. Since early diagnosis of this disease significantly improves the chances of long-term survival, this section includes information about screening for breast cancer and how to examine your breasts so that abnormalities are detected as soon as possible.

Key anatomy

For more information about the structure and function of the breast, see Female Reproductive System.

Breast Lumps


Breast Cyst

Breast Pain

Abnormality of Breast Size

Abnormal Nipples

Nipple Discharge

Breast Cancer

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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