Glandular Structure of the Mammary Gland

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Mammary Gland:

• Mammary gland (breast) is an organ of lactation in females.

• A modified sweat gland derived from ectoderm.

• Extends from 2nd or 3rd rib to 6th or 7th costal cartilage and from sternum to beyond axillary fold.

Surface Structure:


+ Pigmented projection at point of greatest prominence.

• Holds 15-20 lactiferous duct openings.

• In the undeveloped breast is located at approximately the 4th intercostal space.


Pigmented area surrounding nipple and containing areolar and sebaceous glands.

Areolar glands:

Rudimentary milk glands.

Parts of Mammary Gland:

Secretory Unit:

A lobe or lobule containing secretory cells.

Lactiferous Duct:

Tubular connection between secretory cell and opening on nipple.

Lactiferous Sinus:

Distal dilation of each duct prior to opening on nipple.

Connective Tissue:

Structural Matrix for the Gland:

• Fibrous septae bind lobes together and tether breast to overlying skin.

• Derived from tela subcutanea in which breast develops.

• Suspensory ligaments of Cooper are well-developed fibrous septae of upper part of breast.

• Inelastic and thus subject to dimpling and distortion when pathological.


Insulatory and protective padding around gland and connective tissue.

Position on the body wall:

• Glandular elements lie within superficial fascia.

• Separated from deep investing fascia of pectoralis major by loose connective tissue.

• Potential space is the retromammary space; enables mobility of breast.

• Shared lymphatic drainage often implicates muscle in spread of cancer.

• Axillary tail of breast pierces deep fascia of pectoralis major to approximate axillary vessels.

More Topics on Chest Wall:

1. Osteology of Pectoral Region
2. Glandular Structure of the Mammary Gland
3. Development of the Breast
4. Fluid Circulation in the Breast
5. Muscles of the Pectoral Region
6. Intercostal Connective Tissue
7. Notes on Neurovascular Bundle

Additional Reading:

Histology and Cytology

1. Cell Components
2. Nervous Tissue
3. Muscle Tissue
4. Lymphoid Tissue
5. Integument
6. Respiratory System
7. Gastrointestinal System
8. Renal/Urinary System
9. Male Reproductive System
10. Female Reproductive System

Gross Anatomy

1. Back and Nervous System
2. Thorax
3. Abdomen, Pelvis, and Perineum
4. Upper Limb
5. Lower Limb
6. Head and Neck
7. Chest Wall
8. Shoulder

Anatomy Videos

1. Video of Musculoskeletal Examination in a Clinical Setting
1. Video of HEENT Examination in a Clinical Setting

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