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Keywords:

  • anatomy;
  • breast;
  • breastfeeding;
  • lactation;
  • mammary gland

Although it is well recognized that a thorough understanding of the anatomy of an organ is essential to enable assessment of any abnormalities in that organ, there has been little investigation of the anatomy of the normal lactating breast since Sir Astley Cooper performed detailed dissections of the anatomy of the breast more than 160 years ago. Many mothers recognize that breast milk provides the ultimate nutrition and protection for the infant; however, a significant proportion of women experience difficulties breastfeeding, some of which lead to weaning the infant. Recently, a small number of studies have focused on the gross anatomy of the breast, and have found that the ductal system is comprised of fewer numbers of main ducts than previously thought. In addition, the ducts are compressible and do not contain large amounts of milk, the amount of fatty tissue in the breast is variable, and a proportion is situated within the glandular tissue. These findings add to our understanding of both the physiology and pathology of the lactating breast.