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What is Breast Tissue?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Breast tissue is a complicated arrangement of tissues closely tied to nerves, blood vessels and fatty tissues, also called adipose tissue. When physicians refer to this tissue, they tend to mean the tissues that build into the mammary glands.

Breast tissue that is milk producing is often called mammary glands. It may be described as having multiple mammary glands, or may be described as having a single mammary gland that is composed of nodes called lobules. These lobules join together to form a milk duct, which can produce milk.

Adipose cells often separate these individual lobules in breast tissue. One can almost always feel the milk ducts upon breast self-exam. In fact, recognizing ducts is an important part of understanding one’s body, so that other lumps felt can be differentiated from normal tissue.

At the areola, the darkish skin surrounding the nipple, special glands secrete a substance similar to sweat that is vital to the nursing mother. It helps to lubricate the nipple when nursing a baby, so that nipples don’t become chapped or sore. One may notice that this breast tissue appears to have what looks like tiny whiteheads around it. These are not in fact pimples, but are the lubrication material needed for protecting nipples when nursing.

Breast tissue extends to under the arms. Those performing a breast self-exam should examine not only the tissue of the breasts, but feel to up under the arms as well, as this material is considered part of the breast.

In eight out of ten cases, breast cancer occurs in the mammary ducts. In most other cases, breast cancer occurs in the tiny lobules forming the ducts. If one notes significant changes in the mammary ducts, or lumps below them, and one is not nursing, these should be brought to the attention of a medical professional as soon as possible.

Male breast tissue is slightly different than that of females. Men have a few ducts, which are not capable of producing milk. Men also tend to have less fatty tissue, unless overweight, than do women, since they do not need functional breasts that rely on fat storage as part of a milk-producing unit.

Though relatively rare, men can get breast cancer. Breast tissue affected is usually one or more of the undeveloped mammary ducts. To be on the safe side, men should probably perform a breast self-exam every few months to rule out this rare but dangerous form of cancer.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon277087 — On Jun 28, 2012

Are there natural ways of burning breast tissue?

By anon129221 — On Nov 22, 2010

i was told i have lost breast tissue. this is along the bottom of my breast. It's like a long dip. this is painful at times.

By anon37104 — On Jul 16, 2009

I have had the fatty tissue under my armpits for about 10 years i would like to know if there is any one out there who has had surgery for it and how did the outcome of the surgery help

By anon30774 — On Apr 24, 2009

Thanks for sharing this article. I am a 47 year old black female and I am in perfect health. I have had fatty tissue under my arms for years now and I have always wondered what it was. Is there any type of exercise that I can do to eliminate this?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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