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8

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

®

:

Breast Cancer – Locally Advanced (STAGE III)

Version 1.2017

You’ve learned that you have breast

cancer. It’s common to feel shocked and

confused. Part 1 reviews some basics that

may help you learn about breast cancer.

Women’s breasts

Before learning about breast cancer, it is helpful to

know about breasts. The ring of darker skin in the

center of the breast is called the areola. The raised

tip in the middle of the areola is called the nipple. In

young girls, there are small ducts under the nipple

that branch into fatty tissue called stroma.

Increases in female hormones during puberty among

girls cause their breasts to change. The stroma

increases, the ducts grow and branch out like tree

limbs, and lobules form at the end of the ducts.

Lobules are small sacs that make breast milk after a

baby is born. Breast milk drains from the millions of

lobules into the ducts that connect to the nipple. See

Figure 1

for a look inside women’s breasts.

Lymph is a clear fluid that gives cells water and

food. It also helps to fight germs. Lymph drains from

breast tissue into lymph vessels within the stroma.

See Figure 2.

Then, it travels to the breast’s lymph

nodes, most of which are in your armpit. Lymph

nodes are small structures that filter and remove

germs from lymph. Nodes near the armpit are called

axillary lymph nodes.

1

Breast cancer basics

Women’s breasts