The breasts have a network of blood vessels, commonly known as the vascular system, and lymph channels, AKA the lymphatic system. These carry blood and lymph fluid back and forth from the breast tissue to the rest of the body. This "highways" primary purpose is to nourish and support cell life. The lymphatic system in the breast and the rest of the body is made from a network of tiny vessels that collect fluid and waste products. This network transports them to smaller glands, known as lymph nodes. Within the lymph nodes, potentially harmful substances, such as bacteria and cancer cells can become trapped and are usually removed to protect the body from infection. In some cases though, the tainted cells are not removed properly and begin to grow within the lymph nodes.
This increases the risk of cancer metastasizing and traveling to other parts of the body or returning in the future, making breast cancer so devastatingly scary.
Breast health and the functioning of the lymphatic system are tightly intertwined. We must do our best to protect ourselves and be responsible and proactive about our breast health. It’s good practice to perform a monthly breast self-examination by feeling the lymph nodes around the breasts. Place your arm to up to the sky and feel around on all sides of your breast. Top, bottom, and both sides. Then switch and do the same to the other breast. Get to know what your breasts feel like so that if something new pops up, there's a better chance of catching it early. Feel around for hard or painful lumps in your breast and if anything feels concerning, please promptly consult with your physician. Keeping a little journal can also be helpful in remembering what's normal for your breasts.