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The breast is a modified sweat gland that arises on the anterior thoracic wall. It is composed of a mixture of fatty tissue and glandular tissue. It is supported by the ligaments of Astley-Cooper. The ducts of the gland discharge via a central nipple which is surrounded by a pigmented area - the areola. In females of reproductive age it functions physiologically to produce milk for the newborn infant (see breast feeding. It also has a role in the human sexual response and as such a lot of (?unnecessary) distress is suffered by patients who feel their breasts are too small, too large or not of the correct shape.
It's base extends from the 2nd to the 6th rib and its lateral edge extends to the anterior wall of the axilla. The medial edge lies roughly on the lateral edge of the sternum. In the female breast the size is very variable and thus the position of the nipple can also change. In the male breast the nipple is usually found at the 4th intercostal space in the mid-clavicular line.
The most severe disease of the breast is breast cancer. Benign lesions such as fibroadenoma are also possible. Excessive growth of the male breast is termed gynaecomastia. Lesions of the breast are treated by general surgeons with a sub-specialist interest in breast surgery. In the future they may become pure breast surgeons.
To some patients having the correct size and shape of breast is important and patients may be treated by augmentation or reduction/mastopexy. This is normally the domain of the plastic surgeon who is also responsible for breast reconstruction following treatment for breast cancer.