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Normal Structure And Function



  1. The physiological and pathological changes in a woman's breasts vary during different phases of her life.
  2. This is due to the variations in hormone levels that occur before, during and after the period of reproductive life; hormones are important in the regulation of growth, development and function of the breast. 
  3. Development  
    1. Before puberty, the breast consists of a few ducts which are connected to the nipple and open to the surface, but there are no glandular structures.
    2. Shortly before menarche, lengthening and branching of the ducts occurs and the terminal buds appear.
    3. There is increased volume of fat and connective tissue. With the onset of menses, further growth takes place and continues until at least the age of 25, unless accelerated by the intervention of pregnancy.
  4. Developmental abnormalities Q 


  1. Failure of breast development in the female is very rare; in some cases it is due to ovarian agenesis (Turner's syndrome).
  2. Accessory nipples are the commonest abnormality; these can occur anywhere along the 'milk line', from axilla to groin.
  3. Juvenile hypertrophy is characterised by rapid and disproportionate breast growth during puberty; it can cause psychological distress and may warrant surgical reduction. Q
  1. Hormonal regulation
    1. Development of the breast requires the co-ordinated action of many hormones.
    2. The precise role of each hormone is difficult to determine because they may have both growth and secretory effects, and may regulate the activity of each other.

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