Breast cysts are benign pockets of fluid in the tissue of the breast that may feel like lumps. Learn more about breast cysts in the overview article. If you have a lump or cyst in your breast, your doctor may order one of the following tests:
• Ultrasound - An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a video image of tissue inside the body. An ultrasound of your breast will allow the doctor to see the size and shape of the cyst, and to see whether it appears to be filled with fluid or if it looks more solid. Most fluid-filled breast cysts are not cancer, and will never become cancer. If a cyst looks more solid, it’s possible that it contains a tumor which could be cancer.
• Fine-needle aspiration – The doctor or radiologist uses the ultrasound machine to pinpoint the location of the cyst inside the breast. He numbs the skin on the breast then inserts a very thin needle into the cyst to draw out some of the fluid. Normal fluid may appear yellow, green, or gray. This typically means there is no need to send the fluid to the lab for analysis. If the fluid appears bloody, a sample will be sent to the lab for testing.
Once the doctor withdraws the fluid, the cyst should flatten out or go away. If the cyst does not go away, or if the doctor does not find fluid in the cyst, there could be a solid mass or tumor in the cyst. In this case, the doctor can use the need to withdraw a sample of tissue cells which will be sent to the lab to check for cancer.
Treating breast cysts
A breast cyst that contains normal fluid is not considered a serious health risk. Your doctor may recommend checking the cyst at your annual check-up with no further treatment. Breast cysts tend to change size over time and may become larger and more painful just before the start of your period. If the cyst causes discomfort, or if the fluid is not normal, further treatment may be needed.
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