Skip to content

The breasts

Everyone has breast tissue.

Female breasts are mostly made up of:

lobes – each breast is divided into 12–20 sections called lobes
lobules – each lobe contains glands that can produce milk; these milk glands are called lobules or glandular tissue
ducts – the lobes and lobules are connected by fine tubes called ducts; the ducts carry milk to the nipples.

Male breast tissue has ducts but few or no lobes and lobules.

All breasts also contain fibrous and fatty tissue. Some breast tissue extends into the armpit (axilla).

Most younger females have dense breasts, because they have more glandular tissue than fat in them.

The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system. It protects the body against disease and infection. It is made up of a network of thin tubes called lymph vessels that are found throughout the body. Lymph vessels connect to groups of small, bean-shaped structures called lymph nodes or glands.

Lymph nodes are found throughout the body, including in the armpits, neck, abdomen and groin, and behind the breastbone (sternum). The lymph nodes in the armpit (axillary lymph nodes) are often the first place cancer cells spread to outside the breast.

Click on image to enlarge

Featured resources

Breast Cancer - Your guide to best cancer care

Download resource

Understanding Breast Cancer

Download resource

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed July 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Bruce Mann, Professor of Surgery, The University of Melbourne, and Director, Breast Tumour Stream, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Marie Burke, Radiation Oncologist, and Medical Director GenesisCare Oncology, QLD; Dr Susan Fraser, Breast Physician, Cairns Hospital and Marlin Coast Surgery Cairns, QLD; Ruth Groom, Consumer; Julie McGirr, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; A/Prof Catriona McNeil, Medical Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Dr Roya Merie, Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Liverpool Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Eva Nagy, Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, Sydney Oncoplastic Surgery, NSW; Gay Refeld, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Breast Care, St John of God Subiaco Hospital, WA; Genny Springham, Consumer.