What is a Breast Cyst?

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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac in the breast that can be felt as a lump of varying size and has the potential to cause pain, but this is not always the case. The cyst may be very small or as large as a golf ball, round or oval shaped, and sometimes can only be detected by a mammogram or ultrasound. Breast cysts are usually associated with breast cancer and other serious ailments, but there are many times when a breast cyst can be harmless or benign. It is most important to seek the advice of a professional physician when a cyst or other abnormality is discovered to determine its level of harmfulness, if any at all exists.


The lump from a breast cyst begins as a normal milk gland that has grown in size, and can be solid or filled with fluid. When breast cysts have been discovered, an ultrasound will allow a doctor to determine whether or not it is filled with fluid, and whether or not it contains a tumor, which itself may or may not be benign. From there, the cyst can be aspirated, which is the process of inserting a needle to remove the fluid from the cyst, or to test the tissue to determine its composition. Generally the fluid does not need to be tested unless looks as if there may have been bleeding in the cyst, or if the size and shape of the breast cyst appears to be abnormal.

There are several steps that a woman may take to prevent the onset of breast cysts or to reduce the discomfort of existing cysts. One of these is to wear a bra that is supportive in order to relieve some of the inflammation around the cyst tissue. Several preventive measures one can take, which haven’t necessarily been scientifically proven, are the reduction of caffeine and salt in one’s daily diet. Studies on the links between these items and breast cysts are inconclusive. However, many women have claimed to have relieved the symptoms when they reduced their intake of these items.

Often when breast cysts are benign, the doctor will recommend no course of action at all. When left alone, benign cysts can still change in shape over time or even disappear. One of the primary reasons to take the course of aspiration and removing the fluid from the cyst is when it is causing an unnecessary amount of pain or discomfort. It is when the breast cyst exhibits signs of blood or other troubling characteristics, or simply when aspiration doesn’t work, that a doctor’s recommended course of action will be surgical removal of the cyst.


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Post 3

If you don't have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should begin receiving mammograms at the age of 40. This will give them a good baseline to compare with for future mammograms. If you do have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should have one much earlier than this.

I don't have any history of this kind of cancer in my family, but when I noticed a large breast cyst I immediately thought the worst, and got it checked out right away. I hear of breast cancer being diagnosed in young people on a regular basis, so it is so important to do self breast exams as well.

Post 2

I had a breast cyst aspiration several years ago, and still have some pain and aching in the spot where this was done. This does not happen all the time, but just during certain times of the month.

When I talked to my doctor about this, he said that was not uncommon, and it would be worse if I had the whole thing removed, as opposed to the aspiration.

It can be very scary to be told that you have a cyst or lump in your breast, and you immediately think of cancer. There are many of these type of cysts that are benign, but if you ever notice any changes you should get them checked out as soon as possible.

Post 1

During my annual exam, the doctor found a breast lump in one of my breasts. I had the option of either having a biopsy, or just removing the whole cyst. I decided to have a biopsy and go from there.

I am thankful the biopsy can back benign, and was told that this type of cyst would not develop in to cancer. They put a small marker where the biopsy was done, and it shows up on my mammogram every year so they can tell if there have been any changes.

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