A breast is a gland that produces milk in late pregnancy and after childbirth. Each breast is made of lobes, which are groups of milk glands called lobules. Lobules are arranged around thin tubes called ducts. Ducts carry milk to the nipple. These lobules and ducts make up the glandular tissue.
The breast also contain lymph vessels, which carry a clear fluid called lymph. The lymph vessels lead to small round organs called lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are found near the breast in the underarm, above the collarbone, in the chest behind the breastbone, and in many other areas in the body.
Breast changes occur in almost all women. Most breast changes are not cancer, however some changes may be signs of cancer. Breast changes that are not cancer are called benign.
Common breast changes include:
There are two ways to find breast changes: clinical breast exams and mammograms.
In a clinical breast exam, your health care provider will check your breasts and underarms for any lumps, nipple discharge, or other possible changes. This should be done as a part of a routine medical check-up.
The best tool for finding breast cancer is a mammogram. A mammogram is a picture of the breast that is made using low-dose x-rays. It is currently recommended that a women over age 40 receive a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.