Important Role of Female Breasts

Part 1: More than mammary glands

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH It is natural for your mind to be racing with thoughts about this article’s content. Will it be awkward, perverted or useless? Well, this information serves as an introduction—part 1 of a more important article so its value must be taken in context to the two-part series, yet still valuable in itself.

Viewer discretion: Human reproduction is a complex biological process, evidenced by at least 10 popular posters for obstetrics and gynecologists at Some are good at demonstrating the stages of prenatal development, for labeling the reproductive organs or for illustrating the three stages of labor. Breast heath can not only affect personal esteem but it is a life-and-death topic.

Four phases of breasts in a woman’s life are: 1) Pubescent development (a category onto itself); 2) Pregnancy and lactation. 3) Post-pregnancy pre-menopause; 4) Post-menopause.

The Breast is a Life-Saving Organ

Women must weight the advantages and possible side effects of lactation. Pain and dermatological consequences result from improper latching. Why is breatfeeding important? According to Health Save Blog, "There are multifarious proteins in breast milk which have been detected with unique benefits. Studies have shown that children that are fed only breast milk for at least 6 months and fed breast milk and other food formula for at least one year tend to have higher IQ than those that were not. Moreover, proteins that promote neurological development have not been fully elucidated.”

Related: Should Mothers With Nipple Eczema Breastfeed?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states, “For most babies, especially premature babies, breastmilk substitutes like formula are harder to digest than breastmilk. Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year. Breastfed babies may also be sick less often, which can help keep your baby's health costs lower. Recent research shows nearly 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented if 90% of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months. A government prepared downloadable publication entitled “Your Guide to Breastfeeding” is available.

The workplace might affect areola health and appearance. How? Large bosomed women working at desks that are too high could experience excessive friction against their areolae. This may cause callus or friction blisters. However, it is more common to experience friction related problems from improper lactation. Signs of a poor latch:

  • Your baby is latched on to just your nipple.
  • You do not see or hear your baby swallowing.
  • Your milk supply is low.
  • Your baby continues to shows signs of hunger after nursing.
  • Your baby is not gaining weight consistently.

With a good latch, little or no areola is visible. Serious nipple lacerations can result from impropper latching. Contact the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and human Services ( toll-free number to speak with trained lactation specialists regarding breastfeeding at 800-994-WOMAN or talk with your personal physician.

Life Brings About Change

Later in life, despite best efforts, women realize that breast firmness succumbs to the dawn of menopause. Shrinking mammary glands are replaced by fat as estrogen production reduces. Connective tissue within breasts break down and this loss of internal scaffolding results in sagging breasts. This change can be a disguised blessing.

Related: How Quickly Does Cancer Spread?

One reason mammograms are advised after age 40 is because radiology images are clearer due to reduced ductal density. Regular checkups are key to detecting anomalies such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer, where cells grow inappropriately inside the breast ducts.

In summary, the main purpose of breasts is lactation. Improperly done, this is may be the souce of breast problems. Glandular mass decreases in proportion to the decreased role of breasts, which can make it easier for cancer detection. Gravitational effects on breast mass can be camouflaged with appropriate undergarments. Some may resort to cosmetic augmentation. The next article focuses more specifically on areola.

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Tags: anatomy, carcinoma, mamography, mature, obgyn