Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs within your breast, which are usually not cancer (benign). You can have one or many breast cysts. They're often described as round or oval lumps with distinct edges. In texture, a breast cyst usually feels like a grape or a water-filled balloon, but sometimes a breast cyst feels firm.
Breast cysts don't require treatment unless a cyst is large and painful or otherwise uncomfortable. In that case, draining the fluid from a breast cyst can ease your symptoms.
Breast cysts are common in women before menopause, between ages 35 and 50, but can be found in women of any age. If you have breast cysts, they usually disappear after menopause, unless you're taking hormone therapy.
Fibrocystic breast changes
Fibrocystic breast changes lead to the development of fluid-filled round or oval sacs (cysts) and more prominent scar-like (fibrous) tissue, which can make breasts feel tender, lumpy or "ropy.&...
Signs and symptoms of breast cysts include:
Having one or many simple breast cysts doesn't increase your risk of breast cancer. But having cysts may interfere with your ability to detect new breast lumps or other abnormal changes that might need to be evaluated by your doctor. It's important to become familiar with how your breasts normally feel so that you'll know when something is new or changing or just doesn't feel right.
When to see a doctor
Each of your breasts contains lobes of glandular tissue, arranged like petals of a daisy. The lobes are further divided into smaller lobules that produce milk during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Small ducts move the milk to your nipple. The supporting tissue that gives the breast its shape is made up of fatty tissue and fibrous connective tissue. Breast cysts develop when an overgrowth of glands and connective tissue (fibrocystic changes) block milk ducts, causing them to widen (dilate) and fill with fluid.
The cause of breast cysts remains unknown. Some evidence suggests that excess estrogen in your body, which can stimulate the breast tissue, may play a role in breast cyst development.
Preparing for your appointment
For evaluation of a new breast lump or changes on your breast exam, you'll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. In some cases, based on a clinical breast exam or findings on an imaging test, you may be referred to a breast-health specialist.
What you can do
Basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Screening and diagnosis of a breast cyst usually begins after you or your doctor identify a breast lump. In addition to discussing your symptoms and health history, your doctor will do a breast exam and may do a breast ultrasound or fine-needle aspiration, depending on your needs.
Based on what the doctor sees on the ultrasound, he or she might recommend a biopsy to further evaluate a solid-appearing mass. If your doctor can easily feel a breast lump, he or she may skip breast ultrasound and perform fine-needle aspiration instead.
During fine-needle aspiration, a special needle is inserted into a breast lump and any fluid is removed (aspirated). Ultrasound — a procedure that uses sound waves to create images of your ...
Treatments and drugs
No treatment is necessary for fluid-filled (simple) breast cysts. If you haven't reached menopause, your doctor may recommend closely monitoring a breast cyst to see if it resolves on its own.
If you have a breast cyst, you may need to have fluid drained more than once. Recurrent or new cysts are common. However, if the cyst is persistent through two to three menstrual cycles and increasing in size, you should see your doctor for evaluation with an ultrasound.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To minimize discomfort associated with breast cysts, you might try these measures:
Evening primrose oil is a fatty acid (linoleic acid) supplement that's available over-the-counter. A few small studies suggest that evening primrose oil may help minimize menstrual cycle breast pain, sometimes associated with breast cysts. But evidence isn't conclusive, and more research is needed. Although the exact mechanism isn't clear, some experts believe that women deficient in linoleic acid are more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, resulting in breast pain.
Your cyst or lump needs medical evaluation to be sure it's not cancer, so follow your doctor's recommendations. Let your doctor know if you're taking any vitamins, herbal remedies or other dietary supplements.
Last Updated: 2012-11-09
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