U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Techniques in Vascular and Interventional Radiology, Volume 17, Issue 1, March 2014, Pages 3-9


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Normal breast anatomy can be seen on a variety of imaging modalities. Knowledge of normal breast anatomy on imaging examinations is important for an interventionalist, primarily to avoid mistaking normal anatomy for a pathologic disorder, so as not to harm a patient with an unnecessary intervention. Knowledge of breast anatomy is also critical in planning safe breast interventions and unwanted procedural complications. The key anatomical structures in the breast include skin, fat, fascial layers, Cooper ligaments, fibroglandular tissue, lymphatics, and neurovascular structures, all positioned over the chest wall. In men, the breast parenchyma is usually only composed of fat, with absence of fibroglandular tissue. In women, fibroglandular tissue volumes vary with age, with many women having a predominance of fat within the breasts after menopause. Embryologically, the breast develops under genetic and hormonal influence from skin precursor cells during the fourth through twelfth weeks of gestation, and the resulting breast bud continues to lengthen and branch throughout the remainder of gestation, forming a complex network of radially arranged breast ducts that connect the nipple with the mammary lobules. The key arterial blood supply to the breast arises from the internal thoracic artery, but additional arterial blood supply is seen from intercostal and lateral thoracic arteries. The venous anatomy and lymphatic drainage of the breast generally parallels the arterial anatomy, with presence of variation in communicating channels between deep and superficial venous and lymphatic channels. Tools that assess breast vascular structures (eg, contrast-enhanced breast magnetic resonance imaging) and lymphatic structures (nuclear medicine Iymphoscintigraphy) are routinely used to assess extent of breast disease and help guide breast interventions.