Breast Cysts

Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are located inside the breast. Usually, they are not cancerous (benign). One breast cyst or more may be present. Even though it occasionally feels firm, a breast cyst typically weighs the same as a grape or a balloon filled with water.

Unless a breast cyst is enormous, uncomfortable, or painful, treatment is not required. If so, draining a breast cyst's fluid may help with symptoms.

While breast cysts can develop in women of any age, they are more common in those under 50, typically before menopause. Yet, women of any age can display them. Breast cysts are another common finding in postmenopausal women on hormone therapy.

Breast Cysts: Causes

The glandular tissue lobes in each of your breasts are arranged like daisy petals. The lobes are divided into smaller lobules that generate milk during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The supporting tissue that gives the breasts their shape is made up of fatty tissue and fibrous connective tissue. Breast cysts develop as a result of fluid accumulation inside the glands of the breast.

Breast cysts can range in size from micro cysts, which are too small to feel, to macrocysts, which can reach a diameter of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm), which makes them large enough to be felt.

The specific cause of breast cysts is unknown to medical professionals.

Breast Cysts: Symptoms

Breast cysts can be present in one or both breasts. The following are breast cyst warning signs and symptoms −

  • Usually, but not always, a smooth, easily moveable round or oval lump with smooth borders that may be accompanied by benign nipple discharge that may be clear, yellow, straw-colored, or dark brown.

  • Before your period, breast soreness and breast lump size increase. 

  • After your period, a smaller breast lump and the absence of other symptoms.

Breast cysts do not increase your risk of developing breast cancer. But, if you have cysts, it could be more challenging to spot any new breast lumps or other changes that might need a doctor's attention. It's crucial to be aware of how your breasts feel during your menstrual cycle so that you can notice any changes. During menstruation, your breasts may feel lumpy and uncomfortable.

Breast Cysts: Risk Factors

The major risk factors include −

  • Between the ages of 35 and 50.

  • Premenopausal (still have a menstrual period) (still have a menstrual cycle).

  • Receiving hormone medication but postmenopausal (no longer have a menstrual cycle).

Breast Cysts: Diagnosis

Breast examination, imaging tests, such as a mammography or breast ultrasound, and maybe a breast biopsy are all used to diagnose breast cysts.

Examining the Breast

Your doctor will examine the breast lump physically and look for any other breast abnormalities after talking with you about your symptoms and medical history. You'll need a different test since your doctor can't detect whether a breast lump is a cyst only from a clinical breast exam. Typically, this entails either a fine-needle aspiration or an imaging test.

Imaging Exams

Required testing could consist of −

  • Mammography. Mammography often reveals large cysts and collections of tiny cysts. Nevertheless, micro cysts on mammography might be challenging or impossible to notice.

  • Breast sonography. Your doctor can use this test to evaluate if a breast lump is solid or packed with fluid. A breast cyst is often indicated by a fluid-filled region. Solid-looking masses are usually benign lumps, like fibroadenomas, but they can sometimes represent breast cancer.

Your physician could advise a biopsy to further examine a lump that seems solid. A fine-needle aspiration procedure to empty the fluid and burst the cyst may be performed instead of imaging tests if your doctor can readily feel a breast lump.

Aspiration using a Fine Needle

  • Your doctor will attempt to remove fluid during a fine-needle aspiration by inserting a thin needle into the breast lump. Ultrasound is frequently used in fine-needle aspiration to ensure proper needle insertion. Your doctor can diagnose a breast cyst right away if fluid leaks out and the breast lump disappears.

  • You don't need any more tests or treatment if the breast lump goes away and the fluid isn't bloody and appears straw-colored.

  • Your doctor may send a sample of the fluid for laboratory analysis if the fluid seems crimson or if the breast lump doesn't go away, and may also refer you for further care to a breast surgeon or radiologist—a physician skilled in performing imaging tests and treatments.

  • Your doctor will probably suggest an imaging test, such as diagnostic mammography or ultrasound if no fluid is taken out. It is possible that the breast lump, or at least a portion of it, is solid if there is a lack of fluid or if the lump remains a following aspiration. To examine for cancer, a tissue sample could be taken.

Breast Cysts: Treatment

Simple breast cysts detected by breast ultrasonography or after a fine-needle aspiration—those that are fluid-filled and have no symptoms—need no treatment. Without therapy, many cysts will go away. See your doctor if a cyst persists, or feels firmer, or if you observe skin changes in the area around the cyst.

If all of the cyst's fluid can be evacuated during the process, your breast lump will go away, and your symptoms will go away, in which case fine-needle aspiration may be performed to diagnose and treat a breast cyst.

Yet, you might need to have fluid removed from some breast cysts more than once. Cysts are frequently new or recurrent. See your doctor for a more thorough assessment if a breast cyst lasts for more than two to three menstrual cycles and continues to enlarge.

Using Hormones

Breast cyst recurrence may be decreased by using birth control tablets (oral contraceptives) to manage your monthly periods. Birth control pills or other hormone treatment, such as tamoxifen, is often only advised for women with severe symptoms due to the potentially serious adverse effects. After menopause, stopping hormone medication may also help avoid breast cysts.


Only in extremely rare situations is surgery required to remove a breast cyst. If a bothersome breast cyst returns month after month, if it includes blood-tinged fluid, or if it exhibits other alarming symptoms, surgery could be an option.

Breast Cysts: Prevention

Breast cyst recurrence may be decreased by using birth control tablets (oral contraceptives) to manage your monthly periods. Birth control pills or other hormone treatment, such as tamoxifen, is often only advised for women with severe symptoms due to the potentially serious adverse effects.


To provide patients with the best treatment possible, the interprofessional team must communicate effectively at all times. It is critical for the pathologist and managing physician to communicate effectively while discussing breast cysts and their examination to guarantee the patient receives the best treatment possible.

Also, it's typical for patients to have personal worries regarding breast cysts or breast lumps in general. To make sure that no alarming breast symptoms are ignored, primary doctors must maintain honest and open contact with their patients. Lastly, effective communication between the surgeon and the referring physician is crucial to enabling prompt treatment of the breast cyst.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 29-Mar-2023


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