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  • Writer's pictureDr Jesse Hu

What are breast cysts?

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs inside the breast. Breast cysts develop as a result of fluid accumulation inside the glands in the breasts. They are usually noncancerous (benign). Having breast cysts doesn't increase the risk of breast cancer.

Breast cysts

Breast cysts are very common and can be found in women of any age. However, they are more common in women before menopause. Most women have more than one cyst in their breasts.

Most breast cysts are asymptomatic, which means the patient was only aware of the cysts when they were picked up on radiological examination. Some patients present with a breast lump, typically with a history of an increase in breast lump size and breast tenderness just before the period and a decrease in breast lump size and resolution of other symptoms after the period.

A breast cyst often feels like a grape or a water-filled balloon, but sometimes a breast cyst feels firm. The pain is usually due to pressure of the cyst on the surrounding breast tissue.

Most breast cysts do not require treatment or follow-up unless they are:

  • Complex cyst = cysts that do not look completely benign. Complex cyst can look septated or have thickened walls or debris. Most are benign but they will need further evaluation.

  • Large and painful or uncomfortable

How do you treat breast cysts?

Fine-needle aspiration may be used to diagnose and treat a breast cyst if all the fluid can be removed from the cyst during the procedure, and then the breast lump disappears. During the procedure, we will insert a thin needle into the breast lump and attempt to withdraw (aspirate) fluid, often with the use of ultrasound to guide accurate placement of the needle.

Recurrent or new cysts are common. Hence, some breast cysts will need repeated aspiration.

For complex cysts with thickened walls, they will require core biopsy to remove some tissue for testing to exclude cancer.

For more information on benign breast cysts, click here.

Book an appointment with us today to get your breasts checked!

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