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Breast Cysts

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Updated April 05, 2014

Fibrocystic Breast Tissue

Fibrocystic Breast Tissue on a Mammogram

National Cancer Institute

What Are Breast Cysts?:

Cysts are one of the findings that can be seen on your mammogram. These are benign fluid-filled masses that can appear in your breast tissue. They can appear alone or in groups, and are very commonly detected by mammography. Cysts are not usually associated with breast cancer.

Squishy Lumps Felt During Breast Self Exam:

A breast cyst can be felt when you are doing a breast self-exam. It will feel smooth and squishy, and will have some “give” to it, like a water balloon. These might be painful, if they are large and are pressing on some tender area. Women who are perimenopausal are most likely to find cysts. The fluid in these areas can be drained with a fine-needle aspiration.

Cysts Show Up on Your Mammogram:

A mammogram will show dense areas of tissue. If a cyst or a solid area (fibroadenomas or a tumor) appears on a mammogram, a radiologist sees those as dense masses.

Dealing With Dense Masses:

If your radiologist finds a dense mass on your mammogram, and thinks it may be a cyst, the next step is to perform an ultrasound on it. An ultrasound sends sound waves through breast tissue, which will pass through a fluid-filled spot. Solid masses will reflect sound waves, and will make a different image on the ultrasound than will a cyst.

Causes of Breast Cysts:

During your regular menstrual cycle, your breast produces and absorbs fluid in response to hormonal changes. Excess estrogen may stimulate the breast to make more fluid than is absorbed and subsequently this fluid may collect in small sacs or pockets. Many of us have small cysts without realizing it, or without being bothered by any pain or bumpiness. These usually doesn’t require any treatment, but they can be drained if they are is uncomfortable.

When Do Cysts Appear?:

Cysts are most common in women who are 35 to 50 years old and are perimenopausal. If you’re taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) you may also experience breast cysts. Breast oil cysts may occur after breast surgery, breast reconstruction, an injury to your breast, or they may grow spontaneously.

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Reference:

Causes of breast changes. breasthealth.com.au. Last Updated: Not known. Causes of breast changes
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