Breast Cyst

What is a breast cyst?

A cyst in the breast may feel like a lump, but upon examination the lump is a small, generally harmless sac filled with fluid rather than a cancerous or benign lump of cells. You may have one cysts or many cysts that appear together.

How would I know the lump is a cyst and not a tumor?

A healthcare professional can determine whether a lump is a cyst or tumor. A simple ultrasound scan placed against the skin will allow the healthcare professional to see whether the lump appears solid or hollow and filled with fluid. If the lump is fluid-filled, it may require no treatment at all. You may notice that the cyst comes and goes depending on the hormone cycle of menstruation.

What if the cyst bothers me and I want it taken out?

If a cyst is very bothersome, your healthcare provider may drain it first. By applying local anesthesia to the skin and by using ultrasound to guide a needle into the cyst, the fluid can be removed and you may not have any more bothersome problems from it again. However, sometimes drained cysts will fill up again and when this happens, you may elect to have it removed surgically or you may leave it alone and see if it eventually goes away on its own.

Do cysts lead to cancer?

Nearly all “simple cysts” are just that - simple. They are almost never associated with a higher risk of cancer. The only possible exception in which a cyst might indicate a slightly elevated risk for cancer is when other risk factors for cancer, such as a strong family history, are already present.

What if my breasts are always lumpy? (Fibrocystic breasts)

Fibrocystic breast tissue is a very common condition and means that you have denser breast tissue and may notice lumps and bumps that are common to the feel of your breasts. It is important for women with fibrocystic breast tissue to be diligent about performing breast self-exams so they are familiar with what is normal for their breasts and so they can report any changes.

If I have fibrocystic breasts, should I ask my doctor about other types of screening?

Sometimes mammograms of women with fibrocystic breast tissue may be more difficult to read and interpret. Many healthcare professionals recommend choosing a breast center that offers digital mammography. Digital mammograms allow the radiologist to change to contrast of light and dark and to enlarge areas of the breast tissue on the screen to more closely examine areas of concern.

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