Breast Cysts

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Breast Cysts

What are breast Cysts?

Breast cysts are fluid filled sacs. They are like little water balloons which develop naturally as the breast ages and change with the menstrual cycles. They are outpouchings of milk ducts and have a lining. These lining cells secrete the fluid. The fluid can be clear or coloured: yellow, greenish or black.

They can develop at any age but are most common in women above 35 years old. They occur more frequently as women reach menopause and tend to disappear after that. However, they continue to be present in women on hormone replacement treatment (HRT).

How are cysts detected?

Cysts usually become noticeable when they present as a lump in the breast or found by chance during routine breast examination or ultrasound screening.

How do cysts present?

A large cyst can appear overnight. Smaller cysts are not palpable. Some cysts are painful or tender, especially aggravated in the days before period. It is common to have more than one cyst and they can be in both breasts as well. This is not a cause of worry.

How are cysts diagnosed and what tests are done?

Cysts cannot be diagnosed by physical examination only and rarely by mammography. Cysts are best detected by ultrasonography. Depending on the symptoms of the patient; the doctor may recommend withdrawing the fluid by inserting a needle into it.

The fluid drawn from the cyst may sometimes be sent to a laboratory for testing. Cysts that are small and not causing any symptoms to the patient can be left alone. Complex cysts are those with some solid component within the fluid-filled sac, in which case further tests and follow-up may be required.

Can cysts come back?

Many women have recurring cysts. They are treated the same way as the first cyst.

Do cysts have a risk of becoming cancerous?

Simple cysts do not turn into cancers. It is however important to be aware of any new changes in your breasts and consult the doctor. Breast screening is advised as for the usual age groups