Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs within your breast. You can have one or many breast cysts. They're often described as round or oval lumps with distinct edges.
Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs within your breast. You can have one or many breast cysts. They're often described as round or oval lumps with distinct edges. In texture, a breast cyst usually feels like a soft grape or a water-filled balloon, but sometimes a breast cyst feels firm.
Breast cysts are common in women in their 30s and 40s. If you have breast cysts, they usually disappear after menopause, unless you're taking hormone therapy.
Breast cysts don't require treatment unless a cyst is large and painful or otherwise uncomfortable. In that case, draining the fluid from a breast cyst can ease your symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of breast cysts include:
Having one or many simple breast cysts doesn't increase your risk of breast cancer.
Each of your breasts contains 15 to 20 lobes of glandular tissue, arranged like the petals of a daisy. The lobes are further divided into smaller lobules that produce milk during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Small ducts conduct the milk to a reservoir just beneath your nipple. Supporting this network is a deeper layer of connective tissue called stroma.
Breast cysts develop when an overgrowth of glands and connective tissue (fibrocystic changes) block milk ducts, causing them to dilate and fill with fluid.
The cause of breast cysts remains unknown. Some evidence suggests that excess estrogen in your body may play a role in breast cyst development.
Screening and diagnosis of a breast cyst usually begins after you or your doctor has identified a breast lump. The process may involve the following tests or exams:
No treatment is necessary for simple breast cysts. Your doctor may recommend nothing more than closely monitoring a breast cyst to see if it resolves on its own.
Fine-needle aspiration, the procedure used to diagnose a breast cyst, also may serve as treatment, if your doctor removes all the fluid from the cyst at the time of diagnosis, your breast lump disappears and your symptoms resolve.
First, your doctor feels your breast to locate the cyst and hold it steady. Next, he or she inserts a thin needle into the breast lump and withdraws (aspirates) the cyst fluid. Often, fine-needle aspiration is done using ultrasound to guide accurate placement of the needle.
If you have breast cysts, you may need to have fluid drained more than once. Recurrent or new cysts are common.
Using oral contraceptives to regulate your menstrual cycles may help reduce the recurrence of breast cysts. Discontinuing hormone replacement therapy during the postmenopausal years may reduce the formation of cysts as well.
Surgical removal of a breast cyst is necessary only in a few unusual circumstances. If an uncomfortable breast cyst recurs month after month, or if a breast cyst contains blood-tinged fluid and displays other worrisome signs, surgery may be considered.
To minimize discomfort associated with breast cysts, you might try these measures:
Evening primrose oil is a fatty acid (linoleic acid) supplement that's available over-the-counter. Some evidence suggests that evening primrose oil, taken alone or in combination with vitamin E, may help minimize cyclic breast pain that can be associated with breast cysts. Although the exact mechanism isn't clear, experts believe that women deficient in linoleic acid are more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, resulting in breast pain associated with breast cysts.
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