What is a Cyst Aspiration?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 March 2019
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A cyst aspiration is a medical procedure in which fluid or cells are drawn out from a cyst using a needle. This is often performed in order to do a biopsy. The needle is generally inserted directly through the skin and may be guided by a sonogram so the doctor can see what he's doing. Other equipment may also be needed. The cyst's contents are then drawn into a syringe for further investigation.

One of the primary reasons for performing a cyst aspiration is to do a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure in which a specialist looks at cells from tissue or fluid samples under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present. This the main way doctors can tell if a lump is cancerous or benign. They may also be able to tell what type of cancer it is by looking at the shape of the cells.

The doctor performing the cyst aspiration will either guide the needle with his hands if it can be detected through the skin or he may use an ultrasound or another imaging machine to look at the lump on a screen as he works. He will then insert the needle directly into the affected area and may move the needle in and out to allow suction. Sometimes this will be done two or more times to ensure that enough fluid or tissue has been collected.


Once the procedure is complete, the tissues or fluids are smeared and treated and then reviewed by a specialist, usually a pathologist. If cancer is detected, the patient will be notified and treatment may begin right away. Most cysts turn out to be benign, or non-cancerous. In these cases no further treatment may be needed, although sometimes a particularly large cyst may be removed surgically. Sometimes the doctor may run additional tests if it is believed the cyst have been caused by another illness or condition.

Occasionally patients will given a numbing agent during the cyst aspiration, but many times the procedure is less painful than the administration of pain relievers would be. Some doctors let their patients decide if pain medication will be needed. Once the procedure is over, most patients are free to leave the doctor's office or clinic the same day and may experience only mild soreness at the injection site.

Cyst aspiration is preferable to more invasive treatments used to test cysts for cancer and other conditions. The most common is a surgery in which the doctor cuts out all of part of the cyst to retrieve a tissue sample. This often results in much more pain for the patient and may result in a hospital stay, depending on the size of the cyst and the location.


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