Breasts Have A Physical Purpose Biology Essay


Breast cancer affects 1 in 12 women at some point during their lives, so its important that you become aware of how your breasts should feel. One of the best ways to become aware is to regularly self-examine your breasts for any lumps or swelling. Although breast cancer is not normally a worry at this point in life. It is a possibility later in life and that it is important for YOU to get into the habit of doing these exams shortly after each menstrual cycle. Because your breasts can change throughout your menstrual cycle (their shape, weight and texture), it's a good idea to get to know how they normally feel and to be aware of any signs or symptoms which will help you to identify any changes throughout your life.


This CD rom is designed to help you learn more about your chest, how to be aware of any important changes and what to do if you find any.

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Many people are unaware that men can develop breast cancer because they do not think of men as having breasts. In fact, both men and women have breast tissue. Because breast cancer in men is so rare, a man might ignore any symptoms he may have and put off seeing his GP.

Although the risk at your age is extremely low, it is important to be aware of any signs and symptoms which will help you identify any changes throughout your life so that you can refer to a health professional for further advice.




Make an appointment to see your GP without delay if you notice any changes

'Remember that you're not wasting anyone's time. Your GP will check your breasts and might refer you to a specialist breast clinic to have further tests - such as a mammogram, ultrasound or biopsy ,'

'Even then, most women - about 9 out of 10 - won't be found to have breast cancer.'

About 1 percent of all cases of breast cancer occur in men.


Men and women both have breast tissue which forms in the early weeks of foetal development with ducts behind the nipple. Until Puberty boys and girls both have similar breasts but at puberty both start producing hormones. The male sex hormone is called testosterone and it is produced in the testicles. The female sex hormone is produced in the ovaries and is called oestrogen, However boys also have small amounts of oestrogen in their bodies and girls have small amounts of testosterone.

In girls, oestrogen causes the breasts to grow and produce milk producing glands called Lobules. When a woman is breastfeeding, the milk is carried through these ducts to the nipple. When boys reach puberty, testosterone stops the breast tissue from growing, which is why men have less breast tissue than women. Male breast tissue is mainly fatty tissue with a few branching ducts behind the nipple. Men have very little (or no) lobule development because they do not produce milk.

In the early stages of puberty the testosterone levels can fluctuate, allowing the influence of oestrogen to predominate. This can cause the male breast tissue to increase in size. As the testosterone levels rise, the influence of oestrogen falls, preventing further development of the breast tissue.

Sometimes the breast enlargement can continue, which is because the boy is extremely sensitive to small amounts of oestrogen. Approximately 50% of boys notice that their breasts enlarge and are tender during puberty. This is normal and does not mean there is something wrong with their sexual development. This can sometimes lead to a treatable condition known as Gynecomastia. (Irish, 2010).

If you feel worried or concerned at any stage, please see a health professional such as a GP or School nurse, or discuss it with a family member.

The development of breasts in teenage girls is the beginning of puberty and indicated the change from childhood into womanhood.

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Breasts have a physical purpose to attract a sexual partner and a biological purpose, to produce milk for a child that the woman may one day produce. Breasts take many years before they are fully prepared to perform this function. Many of these changes take place during puberty.

Stage 1 (10 years): Breast development is not yet seen. Areolas are coloured spots on the chest area where the breasts will be.

Stage 2 (8-13 years): Small breast buds develop in preparation for duct growth. Periods normally begin around four years after this stage.

Stage 3 (12-14 years): Breast buds begin to enlarge; some pain or discomfort may be experienced at this stage.

Stage 4: (12-15 years): Breasts form mounds and are gradually enlarging. More discomfort and pain may be felt and stretch marks may appear. This is often a good time to buy consider buying a BRA.

Stage 5 (14-18 years):The breasts mature and become full and rounded. Ducts within the breasts are growing and can produce small lumps. These are nothing to be worried about and will go away within several menstrual cycles. Report these changes to your doctor if they go on for longer than three menstral cycles.

Breast growth can be a very scary time for a young girl as many changes are taking place, and sometimes these don't occur in both breasts at the same time, resulting in one breast which is sometimes larger than the other. This is very normal and they should both appear close to the same size after 18. But remember that the majority of women have one breast larger than the other so don't worry if yours are different sizes. . HOWEVER, if you feel concerned or worried at any stage please do not hesitate to speak to a health care professional such as a GP or your SCHOOL nurse, or speak to a family member if you feel comfortable doing so.


Being a teenager is an exciting time and buying your first bra is an experience which should be pleasant.

Bras come in a variety of styles and types and are designed to fit different physical frames. They can also be a fashion statement.

Breast size

Breasts and nipples can vary greatly in shape and size from person to person. There isn't a perfect size and there are pros and cons of having large or small breasts. If you feel that your breasts need enhancing, this can sometimes be achieved by wearing a well fitted padded bra.

Bra Sizing Guide

To find the correct bra , you need to determine your Bra size, cup size, and the style of bra that you want. Most underwear shops or department stores offer fitting and advice services on choosing the correct bra.

Back size.

This is the number used in UK sizes, E.g. the '34' in a 34B size. This number is important as if it is not correct you wont get the cup size right.

If your bra fits properly is should fit firmly around your back. Tight enough to offer full support, but not uncomfortable. A good fitting bras main support comes from the back band - not the straps (which is why a well fitting strapless still offers support).

If the back of your bra rides up its probably because the back is too big.

To check that you have the correct cup size put your hand flat between your back and the back of your bra, then try to turn your hand at 90 degrees to your back. If you have the correct back size, your hand should be quite firmly wedged and you should not be able to pull the bra much further than a few centimetres away from your back. If it can be pulled further, you need to go down at least one back size. A new bra should pass this test with the clasp on the loosest fitting - this allows you to tighten the bra as it can stretch up to 4 inches with wear and washing. Never fit yourself into a new bra with the clasp on its tightest fitting.

2. Cup size

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Once you are happy with your back size you can then address the cup size.

If your cup size is too big it is easy to see! You wont fill them properly and need to drop a cup.

If the cup size is too small your breasts will bulge over the top and sides of the cup and in a wired bra, the wire will not sit back against the chest wall of the cleavage.

If the size is correct, the cups will go around each breast and sit against your rib cage, which each breast in its cup, if not try increasing the cup size.

3. Bra style

'A full cup bra with shoulder straps placed centrally to each cup will suit most people, and provides full coverage. A minimiser full cup bra will help to flatten a larger bust. A half-cup or balconette bra with widely spaced shoulder straps will provide uplift. Push-up and plunge styles both uplift and give maximum cleavage'




Females (animation video)


Start in Your Bath or Shower

In your bath use soap or shower gel to create a soapy layer over your breast area which will allow your fingers to slide along your skin without rubbing.

Check Your Breast Texture

Pam Stephan

'Raise your left arm over your head, and if possible, put your left hand on the back of your head. On your right hand, put your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger together as a group. You will use these three fingers to check your left breast. Check the texture of your left breast by starting at the outer edge. Place your three fingers flat onto your skin, press down and move in small circles. Repeat this all around your breast. Don't rush'.

Check Your Nipple

Male Breast Self Exam MBSE

Check your nipple by gently squeezing it between your index and ring fingers. Look for any discharge, puckering, or retraction (pulling inward).

Check Both Sides

Reverse your hands and check your right breast. Always check both sides.

Visual Examination

Once you have finished and dried off with a towel, stand in front of a mirror which is large enough for you to see both sides. Check for any differences between the two (asymmetry) and skin changes (rashes, dimples etc.)

How to Handle a Lump

'Remember that most lumps in male breasts are due to gynecomastia, which is a benign condition. In addition, 80% of all breast lumps are not cancerous. But if you do feel any change in your breasts that causes concern, see your doctor for a clinical breast exam.' (Stephen, 2008)


Is it OK to have hair around my nipples?

Some people are hairier than others and some girls will grow hair around the nipples. This is totally natural and nothing to worry about. If you find it bothers you then you can trim the hairs with a small pair of scissors. Stay clear of shaving or plucking though because this can cause ingrown hairs and infection.

What if my nipples point inwards and not out?

Although most girls will have outward pointing nipples some girls can have inward or inverted ones. Again this is totally normal but it is important that you clean them properly in between the folds of the skin to avoid infection.

Besides a lump or swelling, other changes in you may notice:


'The most common symptom of male breast cancer is is a small, painless lump in the breast. It is most often found near or under the nipple.

Sometimes, a discharge from the nipple is noticed first. Other patients notice a change in the shape or appearance of the nipple or breast, experience pain in the breast, or find swollen lymph nodes in the axilla (armpit). ' (Virtual Medical, 2006)


If you identify any changes at all whilst examining your breasts (CHEST) firstly don't be scared, Most of the time, these changes will be harmless (or benign) -, however it is important to get them checked out as soon as possible.


Speak to a family member or a friend about your concerns.


It is important to take care of your body as a whole, especially as a way of protecting yourself from the lifestyle factors which can increase the risk of cancer.





What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers. Around one in nine women develop breast cancer at some stage in their life. About 45,500 cases occur in the UK each year. Most develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can also develop in men, although this is rare. Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

Risk factors

Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are certain 'risk factors' which increase the chance that breast cancer will develop. These include:

Ageing. The risk of developing breast cancer roughly doubles for every 10 years of age. Most cases develop in women over the age of 50.

Where you live. The rate of breast cancer varies between countries. This may reflect genetic or environmental factors.

Family history. This means if you have close relatives who have or have had breast cancer. In particular, if they were aged under 50 when diagnosed.

If you have had a previous breast cancer.

Being childless, or if you had your first child after the age of thirty.

Early age of starting periods.

Having a menopause over the age of 55.

Taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for several years (in women over 50 years) leads to a slightly increased risk.

Having dense breasts.

A past history of some benign breast diseases.

Lifestyle factors: little exercise; obesity after the menopause; excess alcohol.

Working night shifts. A recent study has suggested that women who work night shifts may have a small increased risk of developing breast cancer.


ï‚· About 1 percent of all cases of breast cancer occur in men.

ï‚· A family history of breast cancer is a risk factor for men as well as for women.

ï‚· Breast cancer in men is often not detected until the cancer is advanced and more difficult to treat.

ï‚· Breast cancer in men usually shows up as a lump beneath the breast area, fixation of skin to the lump, and discharge from the nipple.

ï‚· Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the lump, followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

ï‚· Treatment and cure rates for men are similar to those for women.

The breast awareness 5-point code

Know what is normal for you

2 Know what changes to look and feel for

3 Look and feel

4 Report any changes to your GP without delay

5 Attend routine breast screening if you are aged 50 or over

Self esteem body awareness

The next time you can spare a minute, have a look in the mirror. What do you see staring back at you? How would you describe yourself? How do you perceive your body? This perception is your body image, or what you think you see in the mirror.

Unfortunately a person's body image is often very different from their actual body. It is this distortion, this negative body image that often pushes people to their limit trying to change what isn't actually there. Rather than fight with this phantom image, cultivate a realistic body image based on what your body can do, and how you feel, rather than how you think your body looks.

The Basis for Your Body Image

Many young people base their body image on what they see in the media. Young women want to be thin and willowy, and young men want bulging biceps and washboard abs. Yet what is wandering onto our TV and cinema screens, and popping up in our magazines and websites, are the exceptions rather than the rule. In reality, base your body image on:

Medically accepted standards, such as a total body fat percentage of under 30% for women and 25% for men, or by calculating your body mass index, a ratio of your weight to your height, to see if it is in the normal weight range of under 25.

How you feel. When your body feels healthy and strong, then your body image should be as well.

Respect for yourself. Don't compare yourself to supermodels or celebrities, or even to your friends who have naturally different body shapes. Respect your shape and enjoy yourself.

Your body! Don't let your emotions get in the way of what you see in the mirror.

Changing a Negative Body Image

It's likely that if you sneak a quick peek in the mirror, you'll have at least one criticism of your body. We live in a society fixated on weight, beauty and fashion, and even the most confident of us will feel down at some time or another. If you find yourself fearful of your reflection, you must take measures to change this before you wind up miserable.

Participate in a favourite activity. When you use your body, you're more likely to respect it.

Walk to the shops. Remind yourself that you rely on your body and should treat it accordingly.

Organise a balanced, healthy diet. Your body can only feel as good as what you put into it, so make sure your fuel is fresh and healthy.

Quit smoking, drinking and/or taking drugs. Unhealthy chemicals will only make you feel slow and bloated.

Plan, and execute, a new exercise regime with a professional. If you feel unhappy in your own skin, take measures to change the situation but only with the advice of a professional.

Seek therapy. If you lead a healthy life and your body fat and body mass index are both in the normal ranges, then your negative perception is likely only in your mind. Talk it out with a professional and explore why you feel the way you do.

Body image is a tricky subject. Most of us know in the back of our minds that we need our bodies to be fit and healthy, but if we're honest we'll also admit that we want them to look well and be the perfect peg for designer clothes while we're at it. Rather than letting these unrealistic goals fester, focus on living healthily and enjoying the results!


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something that is slow-growing or won't cause much harm. You can get benign tumours, which won't spread throughout the body, for instance.

MENSTRUAL CYCLE- The periodic shedding of uterine lining and blood that has built up in the uterus. Women often experience pain, cramping, bloating, emotional changes, breast tenderness or fatigue during this time

PUBERTY - A stage of human development commonly occurring in adolescence. During this stage, an individual's body undergoes sexual maturation.

HORMONES - chemical substances created by the body that control numerous body functions.

SEX HORMONES - hormones responsible for producing sex characteristics and controlling sexual functions

GYNOCOMASTEIA - the development of abnormally large mammary glands in males resulting in breast enlargement.

MAMMOGRAM - An X-ray of the breast that can detect cancers too small to be felt by breast self-examination.

ULTRASOUND - Imaging of body parts using sound waves. Ultrasound uses sound waves that are above the range of human hearing to create an image of organs within the body.

BIOPSY - The procedure that takes tissue samples from a site suspected for disease. The samples are studied with a microscope.


(Advameg, 2010

DUCTS - Carry milk from lobule to nipple.


AREOLA - The circular, darkened area of skin on the breast. The areola contains the nipple and the Montgomery glands (small bumps surrounding the nipple). The areola can vary in color from lightly pigmented to dark brown or black.




There are many conditions of the breast which may cause visible changes.

Some of the more common ones diagnosed in teenagers include:


Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop in the breast tissue. Cysts naturally occur as the breast ages and changes.

Near the surface cysts feel soft, deeper into the breast tissue cysts become hard lumps. Cysts can develop anywhere in the breast. However, they are more commonly found in the upper half. Some women find cysts to be uncomfortable, even painful. Before a period cysts may become larger, and feel sore and tender.

Cysts usually become noticeable as a lump in the breast, or are sometimes found by chance when you have a breast examination or routine breast screening

f you do have a breast cyst or cysts you won't usually need any further treatment or follow up. Many cysts go away by themselves and are nothing to worry about.

If the cyst is large and causing discomfort, or doesn't go away on its own, your specialist will draw off the fluid using a fine needle and syringe. Once the fluid has been drawn off the cyst usually disappears.


The breasts are made up of ducts and lobules, which are surrounded by fatty tissue and supportive tissue. Sometimes tissue will grow over a lobule like a ball, forming a solid lump. This is a fibroadenoma.

Fibroadenomas are very common and it is not unusual to have more than one. Often developing during puberty, they are mostly found in young women, but can occur at any age.  

Most fibroadenomas are about 1 to 3cm in size. When more than 5cm they're called giant fibroadenomas. While fibroadenomas found in teenage girls are called juvenile fibroadenomas.

Most fibroadenomas stay the same size. Some get smaller and some eventually disappear over time. Infrequently, fibroadenomas get bigger, particularly in teenage girls and pregnant and breastfeeding women. This is quite normal and nothing to worry about.

Fibroadenomas usually become noticeable as a lump in the breast. Your GP will note the lump and refer you to a breast clinic for testing.

A triple assessment of testing will reveal a definite diagnosis. These are a breast examination, a mammogram or ultrasound scan, and a fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) or core biopsy.

In most cases you won't need any follow up or treatment if you have a fibroadenoma. Usually you'll only be asked to go back to your GP or the breast clinic if it gets bigger or becomes painful.

Sometimes fibroadenoma larger than 3cm are surgically removed if you would prefer it.


Breast pain (mastalgia) is very common, affecting women of all ages and at any time in their lives.

There are two main types of breast pain:

cyclical - directly related to the menstrual cycle

non-cyclical - unrelated to menstruation.

Both types are treatable, if you have breast pain which is long lasting or severe talk with your GP. On its own breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer. 

Cyclical breast pain

Linked to the menstrual cycle, cyclical breast pain usually affects women a week or so before a period.

It can affect you in the following ways:

a burning, prickling, stabbing or drawing-in pain

one or both breasts can be painful

it can spread to the axilla (armpit) and down the arm and shoulder blade.

Non-cyclical breast pain

There are two types of non-cyclical breast pain:

true breast pain that comes from the breast but is not linked to the menstrual cycle

pain that is felt in the area of the breast but is actually coming from elsewhere such as the muscles, bones and joints (referred to as musculoskeletal pain).

Both of these can result in continuous pain and can affect women both before and after the menopause.

What this means

Having breast pain does not increase your risk of breast cancer, but it is still important to be breast aware and go back to your GP if you notice any other changes.

If there are any breast conditions which are not listed here, or if you would like any more information on an of the above:

Speak to your GP, school nurse of other health professional

Visit one of the sites on our reference page

Visit NHS direct and search for the specific condition

Speak to your family and friends if you feel able to.